Staff Picks

These are some of the titles we love here and love sharing with you! Click on the cover image to purchase online from Bookshop. If you have read anything great lately, let us know and you can submit your own review!

Karen's Picks
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A Gentleman in Moscow

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal. For this, he is placed under house arrest in Metropol, a grand hotel across from the Kremlin. This witty and erudite man has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while history unfolds just outside his door. With such limited circumstances, Rostov has the opportunity for emotional discovery like never before.

Beautifully written, A Gentleman in Moscow invites you to meet colorful characters amongst a dreary backdrop who will charm their way into your heart.

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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

This moving love story takes place over continents and decades and leaves the reader witnessing the incredible power of love. When a New York Lawyer disappears, his family has no clue as to where he went until they find a letter. This letter was written years ago to a Burmese woman they never knew. In order to find answers, they go in search of the woman and discover a love story that conquers all.

The Art Forger

In 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This real life heist is the inspiration for Shapiro's thrilling mystery. Claire Roth is a struggling artist who makes reproductions of famous works for an online art dealer. In a desperate move, she agrees to forge one of those stolen paintings. Upon receiving the painting, she soon discovers that it is not the original either. Her search for the truth leads her to deep hidden secrets as far back as the late nineteenth century. The twists and turns will have you guessing until the very end.

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And the Mountains Echoed

Hosseini's third novel just might be his best yet!  It is a story of two loving Afghan siblings - brother and sister - who are ripped apart by hardships in their family and how this rupture ripples across continents and through generations.   It is a story of love and of memories lost and found.  The writing in the first one hundred plus pages is among the finest I have ever read, and the title for this book does not disappoint. It is perfect!

Autumn's Picks
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Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Dorothy Sayers, Jane Harrison, Eileen Power, and Virginia Woolf all lived in Mecklenburgh Square in the early twentieth century at different times. Their paths did not cross, but their lives were intertwined. Wade does a superb job of bringing these women to life and showing how their thoughts, their work, and their achievements paved the way for generations of equally brilliant women to come.

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The Return

Julie goes missing hiking in Acadia National Park and after a while, everyone presumes she's dead. Everyone except for her best friend Elise. When Julie returns two years later, with no recollection of where she has been, it seems as though Elise has been right all along. However, Elise isn't prepared for the changes she sees in her best friend.This supernatural horror brings deep insight to long-lasting friendships and shows the very fine line between love and hate. A page-turning masterpiece, "The Return" will leave you haunted long after you've read the last line. Terrifying and poignant at the same time, Harrison's debut thriller brings a fresh voice to horror and I can't wait to see what else she has to say.

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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Erik Larson, as always, brings not only the past to life, but the people. Focusing on the Blitz, Larson pieces together the lives that suffered, endured, and succumbed to the horrific nightly attacks at the hand of the German Luftwaffe. Not only does he focus on Churchill and his administration, but he paints a bigger picture of just how many lives were affected, on both sides.Even if you've read every book on Churchill or World War II, "The Splendid and the Vile" will still reveal something new and something human that you've not yet read. Add this one to your collection!

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Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung

If you thought the classics were dead, think again. Nina MacLaughlin has dusted off the old myths and given them a new flare.

The women of mythology are finally being heard and MacLaughlin is just the woman to give them a voice. Not only will those who love the classics enjoy this wonderful twist on the originals, but those who are not familiar with the tales will be able to appreciate their pertinence to the issues of today.
Wake, Siren is the perfect book for any feminist's library and would make a fantastic gift to one who might be in need of a metamorphosis.

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The Testaments

Margaret Atwood is incapable of writing a bad book and The Testaments only solidifies that statement. This sequel to The Handmaid's Tale is told through three voices about fifteen years after Offred first brings us to Gilead.

The three narrators consist of Aunt Lydia, a young girl coming of age in Gilead, and another girl growing up outside Gilead. While Aunt Lydia's narrative moves the story along, each voice adds new insight into what makes the women of Gilead tick and gets to the heart of human nature and resilience. While still a cautionary tale, very relatable to today, the women of The Testaments are role models more prone to take action than Offred who was still navigating a relatively new nation in The Handmaid's Tale.

Clear your schedule, because once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down!

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Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, The Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

London is known for its fog, but in 1952, the city fell under a blanket of smog that killed thousands. Under the cloud of pollution, criminals found the perfect cover for illicit activities. A country that was still reeling from World War II found themselves in a difficult situation.

With a deadly killer enveloping the city, another deadly killer resided within the walls of 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill. Dawson sheds some light on a murky time in British history and lifts the cloud on two killers who changed the city forever.

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This Body's Not Big Enough for the Both of Us

Siblings are rough...try sharing a body with one!

A Z Kimrean are private eyes. They share an office in Fisherman's Wharf and a body since birth. These twins have been in battle since the womb seeing as Adrian and Zooey are complete opposites. They've got to find a way to work together though to save a friend, solve a mystery, and bring down the drug cartels of San Carnal.

In true Edgar Cantero style, this book will have you on the edge of your seat, laughing hysterically, and waiting for the next adventure from this dynamic duo.

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Meddling Kids

What happens when the Scooby Gang grows up? Well like most child stars, it won't be pretty. Part Hardy Boys, part Scooby-Doo, with a decent splash of Lovecraft, this hilarious mystery takes a look at what happens to the kid detectives when they are all grown up.The Blyton Summer Detective Club closed their last case in 1977, but there was something that happened that night that changed their lives forever. Now, tomboy Andy has decided it's time to get the crew back together and face the demons that are all too real. She travels to New York to find Kerri, the brains, as she's drinking her ghosts away with Weimaraner Tim, a direct descendent of the original canine member. Together they plot Nate's escape from Arkham asylum in Massachusetts. And Peter who has been dead for years is along for the ride, even if it's just in Nate's head.Together the crew returns to Sleepy Lake to find out what actually happened that haunting night thirteen years ago. Packed with pop culture references, supernatural occurrences, and plenty of kick-ass action, you will love being along for the ride in the Chevy Vega!

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Into the Water

Jules Abbott returns home to care for her niece after receiving news of her sister's death. Her sister, Nel, was always the wild child, but something does not sit right for Jules. Nel and Jules haven't been on talking terms for a while and mystery surrounds her drowning in the river that runs through town. The river is no stranger to death as many women have been found there through the years.

Told from alternating perspectives, this new novel by Hawkins is not only a superb "whodunit," but also has the reader wondering what crimes have been committed in the first place.

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Hag-Seed

What could be better than a story from The Bard? One of The Bard's stories with Margaret Atwood's touch.

At the top of his game, Felix is staging a unique Tempest. When it all falls apart, he end up living in exile. Felix festers in his anger and for twelve years he plans his revenge until the perfect opportunity arrives at a theatre course in a nearby prison.

The story may have been told before, but Atwood adds new surprises and superb writing as always.

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The Fireman

I feel Joe Hill might not appreciate being compared to his father, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was reading a newer, better version of The Stand. The world seems to be going to hell, quite literally. A spore, nicknamed Dragonscale, is spreading across the world which causes people to catch fire. Those who catch it, either learn to live with it or go up in flames. Those who aren't infected, hunt those who are.

A group of Dragonscale survivors find refuge in a summer camp in Portsmouth, NH. At first the survivors worry only about what will happen if the "Cremation Crews" find them. Over time though, the group realizes that the outsiders might not be the only danger to their community.

Full of fiery characters and an incendiary plot, The Fireman is a book that will leave you burning for more.

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The Golem and the Jinni

The year is 1899, and a man named Otto Rotfeld has asked a rabbi to create a woman out of the earth. The

rabbi accepts the challenge and upon completion, Rotfield and his new Golem set sail for New York City.

He awakens her on the ship and before they ever touch land, he dies. The Golem has no master and no clue where she is.

Across the city in a tinsmith's shop, a Jinni is released from a flask. He has been trapped for centuries and held to human form by a wizard that is most certainly dead by now.

These two seem to be on their own until one night their paths cross. The two are so different from each other, but share the bond of being so different from everyone else. Just when they seem to have found something to hold onto, a darker force comes between them.

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The City of Dark Magic

The start of a great series rooted in mystery, alchemy, and history. Sarah Weston is a musicologist who is asked to Prague in order to finish the work her mentor left behind. While there, she discovers not all is as it seems, but nothing can prepare her for the adventure  she is destined to have.

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Mexican Gothic

The title says it all! This chilling novel, set in 1950s México, is enough to make every gothic heart beat a little bit faster.

Noemí is a young woman living a glamorous life full of cocktail parties and fabulous dresses. When her father sends her to the countryside to check on her cousin who has fallen ill, Noemí's brains and brawn are forced to outshine her beauty. A drafty old mansion, family secrets, odd characters, and a mysterious illness lead Noemí down a haunting path.

Capturing the vibe of classic gothic novels, Moreno-Garcia adds a flair that ensures the gothic novel is alive and well.

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Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

What's in a name? I mean, does a rosa minutifolia smell any sweeter than a rosa stellata? Heard's history of the naming of species through Linnaeus' system certainly doesn't cover all species, but provides a fun and cultural look at what goes into the process. Species bear the names they are given whether they come from celebrities, scientists, lovers, enemies, or even an auction to the highest bidder in the hope to raise money for scientific endeavors."Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider" not only delves into the origins of names, some more scandalous than others, but it also points out the importance of this research and what it means for planet Earth and all its inhabitants.

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You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

Coe's biography of America's first Commander in Chief is concise, comical, and clearly the first of its kind. As she points out, there are very few biographies about Washington written by women and seemingly none in quite some time by women historians. While sticking to the facts that are known and debunking those that have become myth, she offers a brand new perspective of a man most have chosen to remember in a different light.

You Never Forget Your First is a great read for not only history buffs, but for those who might need some clarification on all the things they thought they knew about America's first president.

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Full Throttle

The only thing better than one tale from Joe Hill is 13!

Full Throttle contains stories that pay homage to Hill's influences and prove that he takes what he learns and pushes the boundaries even further. As always, Hill explores the human psyche by putting normal people into not so normal situations. Each story is drastically different from the last but will have the reader engrossed after just a few lines.

If you are new to Joe Hill, this is a great collection to start with since you'll get a good sampling of all this mastermind of horror can do. If you are an avid Joe Hill reader, you may have read a lot of these stories elsewhere, but it's still a phenomenal collection to have on your shelf.

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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Remember the days when surgeons were poor, praised for their strength and speed, and if you had to see one, you'd probably die from infection? No? Well, you can thank Joseph Lister for that.

In Lindsey Fitzharris' biography of the the man who pioneered the use of antiseptics in surgery, she takes us through the horrors of the operating theater in the 19th century and how the merging of science and medicine changed the face of surgery. Fitzharris paints a perfect picture of who Lister was through his achievements and through the words of those who knew him. If you love science, medicine, or just want to read about a man who changed the world with kindness, humility, and humanity, then this is the book for you!

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There There

This may not be a book for everyone, but it's a book everyone should read!

Tommy Orange introduces us to 12 unforgettable characters who are all making their way to a powwow in Oakland, California. Each person has a different reason for attending the event but all of their journeys merge together forming a tragic story, both past and present. The characters struggle with what it means to be Native American in the modern world as well as try to honor and understand what it meant in the past.

Orange gives us a glimpse into a world many of us do not know and others choose to ignore. With moments of humor, tears, and pain, this is a story you won't be able to ignore any longer.v

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The Dante Chamber

Five years after gruesome Dante-inspired killings took place in Boston, a man is now found murdered in London with a stone around his neck that is etched with verse straight out of The Divine Comedy. With more murders popping up all around London, poet Christina Rossetti fears that her brother Gabriel could be the next victim. With the help of Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, and of course Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Christina rushes to solve the secrets of Dante's verse and find her brother before it is too late.

While not an official sequel to The Dante Club, The Dante Chamber will pull you back into the world of The Divine Comedy as well as both the mansions and underbelly of London. Truly a master of historical fiction, Pearl seamlessly blends fact with fiction and in his usual fashion, will have you guessing until the end.

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Strange Weather

Every New Englander knows that the weather can change on a dime. In Joe Hill’s latest collection of novellas, he proves his residency. Each of his tales spin distinctly different webs, but they all have one thing in common: strange weather. Full of dark and stormy nights, wildfires burning, raining needles and even a trip to the clouds, this collection has something for everyone. You’ll sit down to read one and end up reading them all!

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The Bear and the Nightingale

Reality and myth mingle in this magical tale taking place at the edge of Russian wilderness in the 14th century. The winters are harsh and last forever, but the people of Vasya’s village do not mind. Old traditions keep the land and the people safe. After Vasya’s mother dies, her father travels to Moscow to find a new wife. He returns home with Anna, a devout woman who has no room for the old traditions, and a necklace from a mysterious stranger to be given to Vasya. It doesn’t take long before the people and the land start to suffer and dark creatures emerge from the forest.

Armed with courage and love, Vasya is the only one to take a stand. In order to save the people she loves, she must defy them and step into a frightening tale with a dangerous gift. Arden gives birth to a fierce heroine who not only steps outside of her role in culture, but burns her own path through the frigid winter.

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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Ever wonder if diarrhea spoiled a special ops mission? Would you want your wounds cleaned by maggots? Haven't people thought of ways to win wars without killing humans? All these questions and more are answered by the always hilarious Mary Roach.

 

The military is known as being a hard shell to crack, but Roach's inquisitve nature and good cheer must have worked overtime as she delved into the science that keeps soldiers safe, betters the conditions of war, and tries to put our soldiers back together when they finally make it home. Informative, humorous, and hopeful, this book shows the talent and brains behind the scenes and opens a door to the least seen perspective of war.

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A Darker Shade of Magic

Kell is one of the few left who has the ability to travel between Londons. Yes, there are multiple Londons. There is Grey London, which we will recognize as the London we know and it also lacks magic. There is Red London, where Kell is from and magic is everywhere. There is White London, ruled by ruthless twins where everyone is willing to kill for any magic they can find. Finally, there is Black London which had been consumed by magic and sealed off for some time.

 

Kell happens to smuggle items between worlds. Despite his illegal activity, he avoids trouble until he ends up with an item that no one should have. In his attepmt to flee, he ends up running into Grey London's most wanted thief, Lila Bard who lives up to her reputation as she pickpockets Kell.

 

The two are dragged into the power and the danger of magic as Lila gets the adventure she has always longed for but of which she could never even dream.

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The Technologists

Matthew Pearl has a knack for wonderful writing, interesting stories, and historical masterpieces. This novel follows the first graduating class of MIT as they must solve mysteries that keep popping up around Boston. While they are shunned for their use of technology, it seems that the only possible way to explain these disasters is through the use of science. With time and the population of Boston not on their side, the students must hurry to solve the crimes.

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A Discovery of Witches

Do you like vampires, witches, magic, yoga, and wine? Even if you don't you will love this book! Diana Bishop, historian and witch, has turned her back on magic and wants to live a normal life. She does fairly well until one day while researching an alchemical text she unlocks a long lost spell which sets every creature into motion. With the help of Matthew, a vampire geneticist, she must stay alive and unlock the mystery behind something she fought so hard to keep out of her life. Warning: This is the first part of a trilogy so once you are hooked, you are in it for the long haul!

Sarah's Picks
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Birds in Fall

A crestfallen group of strangers gathers on a remote island in Nova Scotia to make sense of the wreckage following a plane crash. The disaster took down their loved ones, and the survivors must sift through debris and their own grief in a foreign setting. The story focuses on ornithologist Ann Gathreaux, who lost her husband in the crash. Hosting the bereft strangers are two overwhelmed innkeepers who console the group with thoughtful basics: food, space and time. Eventually, the motley group of mourners manage to scale the walls of their own grief and cultural barriers in order to find kinship. Some even find hope. Birds in Fall is about loss, but it’s also about the shared and often beautiful human experience.

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The Boys in the Boat

In 1936, the Nazi-controlled city of Berlin hosted the summer Olympics. Hitler and his propaganda team had worked for years to construct a venue that stunned both athletes and spectators, and more importantly, beguiled the world. When nine rough-and-tumble American rowers arrived in the polished capital city, they were indeed stunned. These were the sons of loggers and farmers from the impoverished northwest; they had risen from shanty towns, through the ranks of the University of Washington, to this pristine Olympic arena. Crew was a sport formally reserved for Ivy Leaguers and Oxonians, and these nine boys represented the new American spirit: gritty, humble and unified. Though Hitler successfully concealed his ruthlessness behind the grandeur of the games, he could not hide his disappointment when the American rowers (one of whom was Jewish) beat his government-sponsored team of elites. The Boys in the Boat focuses on how a home-grown group transformed a wooden shell into a symbol of athletic and moral triumph. Daniel James Brown offers a hopeful perspective on a notoriously dark era; I cheered not only for the boys in the boat, but also for the defeat that shamed Hitler, if only for a moment.

Bruce's Picks
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In The Bleak Midwinter

I just love a "character-driven" mystery, and Spencer-Fleming provides the best of the genre. Start with In the Bleak Midwinter, the first in the series, and I guarantee you'll eagerly be chasing the protagonists from book to book. Along the way there's great local color, believable dialogue, nail-biting action, and even a small dose of religious education. Here is smart, witty, fast-paced writing at its best.

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The Cold Dish

I am a huge fan of the late Tony Hillerman and I've been looking for a worthy successor. Well, Craig Johnson has earned the mantle. Cold Dish is the first in the "Longmire" series. The characters are memorable, the plot-line is strong (there are twists and turns you will never expect -- always a delight in a mystery!) Don't watch the A & E series until you've read the books. They are worth the price of admission!

Donna's Picks

The Blackhouse

The first book in the Lewis Trilogy, The Blackhouse introduces readers to Fin Macleod, native of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.  When a

local murder bears some resemblance to a murder on the mainland, Fin is sent to investigate, and at the same time becomes embroiled in his complicated past.  Peter May has a way of making the reader feel the dampness, cold, windy climate of the islands and he weaves a story that won't be easily solved or forgotten.  Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times writes, “Peter May is a writer I'd follow to the ends of the earth.”  He's that good!

Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon is about trying to make sense of a world that just doesn't add up.  Ginny is an active teenager who also happens to be autistic.  After years in the foster care system, she has finally found her “forever home” but her search for something she thinks is missing leads to almost losing it all.  Told in her own words, with her own unique views of life, this novel gives the reader insight into the perceptions and ways of thinking of a bright, loveable and unforgettable girl who happens to have autism, and the family who learns to love her.
 

Still Life

If you are not yet a fan of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache novels, you are in for a treat!  Still Life is the first of the series and a great place to start getting to know the people who live in Three Pines, a fictitious village in southern Quebec.  At times laugh-out-loud funny, and at other times poignant and heart-wrenching, Inspector Gamache approaches crime with wisdom, integrity and compassion.  In a recent NPR interview, Louise Penny said that she wanted to create a character who would be a man she'd want to marry.  Many readers have found this in Inspector Armand Gamache.   Still Life is the first of thirteen books in the series, the most recent being released in August, 2017.  
 

Pachinko

This novel is about several generations of a Korean family in Japan. Beginning in Korea in the early 1900s, the story unfolds through the years until the ending in 1989. I became aware of how little I knew of the relations between Korea and Japan, and while reading the beautifully written story, I learned much about 20th century history as well. The book came into my hands when a book rep visiting the store recommended it and I have enthusiastically passed along the recommendation. I almost wish I hadn't already read it so I could enjoy it again for the first time.

The Patriots

The Patriots is another novel that spans multiple decades, but in another part of the world. Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn in the 1930s to follow her love, with the belief that Russia is the up-and-coming place to be for the future. Once she becomes established in Russia she becomes enmeshed in the cataclysm of Soviet Russia and cannot escape. Her son makes the opposite journey, immigrating back to the United States. The story spans three generations and is an unforgettable tale of secrets, love, betrayal, and how a family survives.

Setting Free the Kites

This novel is a coming-of-age story about two boys who live on the Maine coast in the 70s. Robert and Nathan meet on the first day of eight grade. They are of entirely different temperaments: one full of confidence and optimism, and one reserved and cautious. Their friendship is forged by the experience of two family tragedies and the story is heartbreaking, up-lifting, and memorable. Long after I read this book, the characters remain with me. It is a perfect book for summer.

Our Souls at Night

Kent Haruf's final novel is a warm and gentle story of two older neighbors in Holt, Colorado who make a decision to comfort and enjoy each other's company to combat their lonely hours. Both Addie and Louis have experienced grief, losing their spouses and living alone. When they decide, as neighbors who have known each other casually for years, to spend their nights together, they find both happiness and complication as their adult children become involved. This is a relatively short novel that makes me wish Haruf was still living to give us more.

Crossing to Safety

Wallace Stegner was a great American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a National Book award, and three O. Henry awards. This novel, his last, is about the friendship of two couples of differing backgrounds, set in Vermont and Wisconsin from the 1930's to the 1980's. Their friendship endures through many challenges and is a stirring and affecting story you will remember long after it ends. The day Wallace Stegner passed away, I remember mourning the loss; all of his novels are memorable!

Best of the Best from New England Cookbook

Originally published in 1994, this handy cookbook has resurged in popularity as people discover the wealth of treasured recipes that have been gathered from many regional cookbooks, some of which are no longer in print. True to its name, this really is a collection of the best of the best. Cookbooks come and go from my pantry shelves, but this one is a keeper and I highly recommend it.

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