The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

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This is a fun mystery full of twists, following a writer who is caught up in a series of murders while working on her latest book. The story takes place in Boston and features lots of local places. The book is told as a story within a story, and I’m not sure I completely understood all of it, but I enjoyed the journey! 

“[The Woman in the Library] is a mystery-within-a-mystery, with the clues in Freddie’s story becoming more intriguing as Leo’s advice becomes more sinister. The two story lines work together beautifully, amping up the suspense before reaching a surprising conclusion.” ― Booklist

“With each new chapter, Gentill opens the door to new histories. More murders…more clues…The Woman in the Library is a page-turner from beginning to end. As Gentill’s characters grow, the desire to know more about each ensnares us, and the only way out is to read to the end.” ― New York Journal of Books

“The Woman in the Library is a sophisticated mystery with more layers than an onion, created by a master hand. Clever plot twists in Gentill’s signature refined style will make you feel smarter just by reading. Sulari Gentill has done it again.” ― Ellie Marney, New York Times bestselling author

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus    

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“It’s the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side. Lessons in Chemistry is a page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty.”—Maggie Shipstead, author of Great Circle

“The enchanting story of Elizabeth Zott never belittles the offence of sexism, but neither – miraculously – does it ever take you more than a few sentences away from a smile, a chuckle, or a laugh out loud. Bonnie Garmus’ gift is to expose the sting and injustice of being a woman in a man’s world with a feather light touch that keeps our spirits buoyant and our hearts strong. I honestly don’t know how she does it. This is a remarkable book by a remarkable writer.”—Jo Browning Roe, author of A Terrible Kindness

“Lessons in Chemistry is a breath of fresh air—a witty, propulsive, and refreshingly hopeful novel populated with singular characters. This book is an utter delight—wry, warm, and compulsively readable.”—Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

“Garmus tells a familiar story in a completely original voice in her delightful debut novel…Zott is an unforgettable protagonist, logical and literal and utterly herself…The novel deftly mixes comedy and tragedy, with only one very clear villain: the patriarchal culture of mid-20th century America, the days of which are numbered because of women like Zott…For those who admire a confident, bone-dry, and hilarious authorial voice, this novel achieves the difficult task of being both sharply satirical and heartwarming at the same time.”—Historical Novels Review

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The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin 

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Delightfully funny and bittersweet, heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot reminds us of the preciousness of life as it considers the legacy we choose to leave, how we influence the lives of others even after we’re gone, and the wonder of a friendship that transcends time. A charming, fiercely alive and disarmingly funny debut novel in the vein of John Green, Rachel Joyce, and Jojo Moyes  (Amazon)

“Cronin has just struck the right balance between sensitivity and sentimentality, making her one of those admirable writers who does exceptionally fine work both celebrating life and addressing death.” — Booklist

“A heart-warming story about how friendship can grow between people of different generations.” — BBC

“This multi-generational novel about friendship is something special: moving, joyful, and life-affirming.” — Good Housekeeping, UK (Book of the Month)

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Horse: a Novel by Geraldine Brooks

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A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history (publisher)

“Brooks’ chronological and cross-disciplinary leaps are thrilling . . . [Horse] is really a book about the power and pain of words . . . Lexington is ennobled by art and science, and roars back from obscurity to achieve the high status of metaphor.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[Brooks] demonstrates imaginative empathy […] and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness . . . Brooks skillfully […] demonstrate[s] how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable . . . Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 

“Brooks probes our understanding of history to reveal the power structures that create both the facts and the fiction . . . [She] has penned a clever and richly detailed novel about how we commodify, commemorate, and quantify winning in the United States, all through the lens of horse racing.”
Library Journal (starred review)

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Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? : a Memoir by Séamas O’Reilly 

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This memoir is narrated by Séamas O’Reilly, who was five when his mother died and left behind a husband and eleven children. While this tragic event is the focus of the book, it is also a really funny, uplifting story about how the siblings and their dad carried on, living in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. 

“I laughed out loud reading Did Ye Hear Mammy Died, especially at the bits that recalled for me the way my own family laughs to keep from crying…It’s rare to read about good fathers in memoirs, and O’Reilly’s portrait…is hilarious and moving….It is this thread of refusal to be pitied, to have what happened to his family reduced to ‘a tawdry bit of sentimental fluff for people to tut along to and say how sad,’ that makes Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? so rousing. That it is also deadly funny is an extra treat.”―NPR

“Northern Ireland in the time of the Troubles is often cast into a narrative that doesn’t allow room for joy or delight…O’Reilly’s recollection is a splendid paradox, both cheery and heartbreaking.”―Booklist, Starred

“In this joyous, wildly unconventional memoir, Séamas O’Reilly tells the story of losing his mother as a child and growing up with ten siblings in Northern Ireland during the final years of the Troubles as a raucous comedy, a grand caper that is absolutely bursting with life.”―Patrick Radden Keefe, NYT bestselling author of Say Nothing and Empire of Pain

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Fault Lines by Emily Itami

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“Fault Lines is full of laugh-out-loud, irreverent humor, as well as heartstoppingly poignant, yet seemingly incidental, wisdom. All of the inner yearnings and tribulations of Mizuki are laid bare, offering one of the fullest, most thorough depictions of a character I have ever read. … Every line here is razor-sharp, chosen with precision, resulting in a deceptively clever, emotionally wise and truly heartbreaking novel.” — Bookreporter.com

“What’s intriguing about Fault Lines is its shrewd commentary on Japan’s societal expectations of women as either sex objects or dutiful mothers. As Mizuki eventually learns, it’s in striking a workable balance between these two dichotomies — her past life versus her present one, titillating desire versus familial obligations, who she wants to be versus who society dictates she should be — that the real work of living begins.” — Washington Post

“Mizuki is one of the most engaging adulteresses I’ve ever encountered, and a wonderfully witty guide to the morals and mores of contemporary Tokyo. I now know just how to behave while picking up children from school, or meeting strangers. Fault Lines is a moving and suspenseful novel full of the best kinds of incidental wisdom.” — Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field

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The Nazis Knew My Name: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Courage in Auschwitz by Magda Hellinger and Maya Lee

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Having heard this author on NPR describing an excerpt from the book where her mother slapped a prisoner and yanked her off a wagon – what was criticized as harsh – but , there and then, actually saved that prisoner’s life as well as hundreds of other prisoners’ lives. I was intrigued to discover how she herself managed to survive having been one of the first Jews to be sent to Auschwitz.

“For too long, the stories of people like Magda, who were forced to make unthinkable choices, have remained untold. Unsentimental and filled with detail of her courageous dealings with notorious Nazis this is an important book that provides a rare insight into everyday life in the hellish structure of concentration camps. This thought-provoking book is a must-read for anyone interested in the Holocaust.” —Ariana Neumann, New York Times bestselling author of When Time Stopped

“[A] compelling and seamless portrait of a young woman who managed to sur­vive and save others through cunning bravery and compassionate leadership… an extraordinary portrait of one woman who fought for others in the midst of unimaginable horror.” —BookPage (starred review)

“Hellinger has written an important perspective of the Holocaust, of a kind that we rarely see. A standout memoir that will draw the interest of readers of World War II history and women’s memoirs or biographies.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Magda’s own words, completed by her daughter’s copious research, create an unputdownable account of resilience and the power of compassion.” —Booklist

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Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

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Selection for August 2022 Novels at Night book club in Weston

“Brilliant and devastating, Four Treasures of the Sky tells the story of Daiyu, who is brought to America against her will and forced to hide who she is even as she grows into her true self. Weaving together myth and history, Zhang’s work is both timeless and utterly necessary right now.”
―Anna North, author of Outlawed

“Jenny Tinghui Zhang uses her considerable talents to illuminate the shocking injustices the Chinese in this country suffered in the 1800s, and in doing so, makes us stop and consider how much of that cruelty and injustice survive to this day. Four Treasures of the Sky is an engulfing, bighearted, and heartbreaking novel.”―Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

“Zhang’s debut novel imaginatively illuminates an often overlooked aspect of American history that resonates powerfully today, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and concurrent anti-Asian violence… Zhang’s blend of history and magical realism will appeal to fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer as well as Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement.”―Booklist (starred review)

“Fierce and moving…Zhang delves into the history of violence and prejudice against Chinese people in the U.S. with her debut, a lyrical and sweeping Bildungsroman…The author skillfully delineates the many characters and offers fascinating details on Chinese calligraphy and literature, along with an unsparing view of white supremacy.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The prides and prejudices of the Old West blaze to life in Zhang’s propulsive, fable-like novel…Zhang skillfully embellishes her novel with Chinese characters, suggesting that language is our most potent weapon against oppression.”―Oprah Daily

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One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

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Katy is heartbroken when her mother dies, and decides to take their planned mother-daughter trip to Italy on her own. As she revisits the Amalfi Coast where her mother traveled as a young woman, she comes across an unexpected person: her mother, as she was 30 years ago. This novel also serves as a vacation to Italy, with beautiful descriptions of the places Katy visits.

Serle’s whimsical tale can be read in one sitting.  But take your time and savor the food, the lush settings and sights that Katy discovers in her search for what her mother experienced in her youth. 

In these cynical, jaded times, this book elevates the magic of place.“An unconventional love story that embraces people’s flaws and selfishness as part of what makes them human.”—Kirkus


“Poignant and ultimately uplifting. The mouthwatering descriptions of Katy’s food and the lush Italian coast bring a strong, atmospheric sense of place. Recommend to fans of Helen Fisher’s Faye, Faraway (2021) and those who enjoy being transported to other countries through fiction.” —Booklist 


“A touching story…the mother-daughter bond is made palpable through Katy’s grief and desire for connection.” —Publishers Weekly

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The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

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A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. (Amazon)

“Benedict, who is white, and Murray, who is African American, do a good job of depicting the tightrope Belle walked, and her internal conflict from both sides—wanting to adhere to her mother’s wishes and move through the world as white even as she longed to show her father she was proud of her race. Like Belle and her employer, Benedict and Murray had almost instant chemistry, and as a result, the book’s narrative is seamless. And despite my aversion to the passing trope, I became hooked.”—NPR

“This fictional account of Greene’s life feels authentic; the authors bring to life not only Belle but all those around her. An excellent piece of historical fiction that many readers will find hard to put down.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene… a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. … [a] resounding tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism during the brutality of Jim Crow. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.”—Booklist (starred review)

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