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Specializing in contemporary fiction, children's books, young adult, local authors, & a large Shakespeare & theatre section.

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Reviews by Becky

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cleancakesCLEAN CAKES
Henrietta Inman
Is there such a thing as delicious baking without refined sugar, dairy, gluten, or gluten-replacements? Yes! Henrietta Inman shows us how. Her recipes, both sweet and savory, are full of incredible flavors and textures that highlight the naturally wholesome and delicious qualities of whole foods. Her tips for a seasonal pantry make stocking an amazing arsenal a snap, and show how easy it can be to bring these healthful and delicious creations to every table. This cookbook is a MUST for bakers of every level.

 
thetroublewithgoatsandsheepTHE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP
Joanna Cannon
After their neighbor, Mrs. Creasy, goes missing, precocious 10-year-olds Tillie and Grace spend the summer of 1976 hunting for Jesus, believing he can keep their sleepy English village safe. Jesus is everywhere after all, at least according to the vicar, but God sometimes shows himself in unexpected ways (and places). At the beginning of their quest the girls believe wholeheartedly in the existence of goats and sheep—those who fit in and those who do not—based on the Gospel of Matthew, but they discover that most of us are a little of both. Where is Mrs. Creasy, and why do the grownups of neighborhood suspect Walter Bishop? This charming and quirky debut novel is part coming-of-age tale, part mystery, and part examination of small-town politics. Delightful!

 

weshouldallbefeministsWE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“My own definition of a feminist is a man or woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’ All of us, women and men, must do better.” In this personal, eloquently-argued essay–adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now–and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

 
mylifeontheroadMY LIFE ON THE ROAD
Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem, activist, journalist and masthead of the women’s movement, examines how a lifetime of traveling has led her to a place she can call home. Steinem, now in her 80s, is still inherently quotable, is no less feminist, but is perhaps less zealous. She encourages readers to live in an on-the-road state of mind every day, and shares the important lesson of talking circles. This autobiography, loosely organized into types of travel, provides a history of the last fifty years that puts people, and their unique stories, first—“people before paper.” This is a powerful book, both for readers whose work brought us right against the glass ceiling, and for younger readers for whom the feminist movement is part of recent history.

 
swansoffithavenueTHE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE
Melanie Benjamin
Do you think it’s about Bill? Truman Capote’s swans gather to preen their ruffled feathers as the November 1975 issue of Esquire graces newspaper stands. Aged but still regal they purse painted mouths. He killed her they whisper, indignant, ready to close their doors (and guest lists) against Truman Capote for good. Who did Capote’s pen kill, how and why? Melanie Benjamin chronicles Capote’s rise and fall as a literary star with compassion, wit and an ear for scandal. She reconciles, for the fictional record, two friends who love each other deeply and wound each other mortally. In the end loving Truman Capote is like loving Holly Golightly or a wild thing: “If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.” The Swans of Fifth Avenue is as fun, salacious and fabulous as Capote himself.

 
theheartgoeslastTHE HEART GOES LAST
Margaret Atwood
The heart goes last in death and marriage. So Stan and Charmaine discover when they join the Positron Project, an utopian society with a dark underbelly. Vintage Atwood with a racy twist! I thoroughly enjoyed this examination of marriage, utopia and the future of our planet (sex-bots and all).

 
uprootedUPROOTED
Naomi Novik
This is an incredible adventure story—a tale of friendship, romance, twisted allegiances and the struggle for power. Agnieszka always has mud on her skirts and she never expects the wizard to pick her as his tribute. Choose her he does however, setting off a chain of magical reactions that sends Agnieszka into the darkest recesses of the royal court, and deep into the heart of the magical forest that surrounds them all. I just want to climb inside this world and live there: the characters feel like old friends, and the magic is believable. Dragon reminds me of Howl (from Howl’s Moving Castle), and Agnieszka shows the heart and humor of a Tamora Pierce heroine. Novik draws from the Polish fairytales of her childhood to explore forgiveness and the subjective nature of truth in this unforgettable work of fantasy.

 
thelastgoodnightTHE LAST GOODNIGHT
Howard Blum
This is a sexy story of espionage and life lived on the edge. Betty Thorpe Pack, American socialite turned MI6 spy, had a successful career trading in pillow talk and secrets during WWII. A restless spirit, not unlike Holly Golightly’s “mean reds,” made her first marriage to British diplomat Arthur Pack a necessity, and her subsequent recruitment to MI6 at the onset of the Spanish Civil War seem inevitable. Pack, loyal to nothing and no one but her cause and herself,  led an unconventional life punctuated by tragedy. She refused to be defined by her gender or her lineage, by society or the conventions of motherhood and marriage. THE LAST GOODNIGHT pays homage to the fascinating life and tragic death of an unsung heroine in the intelligence world, and a complicated woman who never stopped searching for her true place.

 
janesteeleJANE STEELE
Lyndsay Faye
Reader, I killed him. Jane gives her admission freely, her chin hard and defiant, but a glint in her eyes hints at the depths of her humanity. Murder is not the whole story. Jane Steele, an orphan who bases her sense of self on the beloved fictional feminist Jane Eyre, is as sharp and deadly as a blade of the metal she’s named for. Steele’s story, a wild thrill ride through the streets of London and beyond, also explores womens rights, issues of class, and the politics of the period. Be careful—this Victorian heroine will capture your heart. This is smart, fast paced historical fiction and a Bloomsbury favorite.

 
fatesandfuriesFATES AND FURIES
Lauren Groff
In Lotto’s version of how they met she says yes. In Mathilde’s version she says no, which becomes sure, but nothing is ever sure. The decades that follow bring success and failure, luck both good and bad, fate and fury. “Most operas, it is true, are about marriage. Few marriages could be called operatic.” Except for Lotto and Mathilde. Their love is tremendous, consuming, obdurate, yet vulnerable to fate. Still, this novel is about more than the growing pains within a marriage. Lotto’s rise into literary stardom evokes the golden era of theater—Albee, Williams, and O’Neill. Yet, as a playwright in the 1990s, Lotto is part of a generation of activist playwrights and actors, while Mathilde relinquishes her creative spirit to her wifely duties. Separately they tell interesting stories: Woven together, their lives are lightning captured in a jar.

 
thehourscountTHE HOURS COUNT
Jillian Cantor
Humidity, electricity, clings to New York City the summer of 1953—the summer the Rosenbergs are executed for conspiracy to commit espionage. Millie Stein is a young mother living just doors away from the Rosenbergs in Kickerbocker Village in Cantor’s mesmerizing novelization. That summer, for Millie, is a maelstrom of secrets, fears, and the desperate desire to help her friends—because to Millie Jules is her husband’s former employer, and Ethel her neighbor and only female friend. Through Millie’s eyes readers feel hysteria building across America: the Hollywood Ten behind bars, the small-pox outbreak, the killer fog, and the first Soviet bomb-test. Fear lives in every home. Cantor gives new life to the tension of the period with taut writing, rich historic detail, and characters (real and imagined) who are flawed, sympathetic, and defy all expectations. This unforgettable novel is a smart, incisive, affecting look at a dark period in American history.

 
loveandlemonsLOVE & LEMONS COOKBOOK
Jeanine Donofrio
(Based on loveandlemons.com)
Mystified by kohlrabi? Overwhelmed with squash? Curious about garlic scapes? Love & Lemons makes seasonal, plant-based cooking easy with a collection of delicious, vegetarian recipes organized by vegetable. The recipes are full of flavor and texture, and can easily be converted into vegan, pesceterian, gluten-free, or carnivorous meals. Donofrio includes great tips for stocking a pantry that facilitates healthy, satisfying, delicious everyday cooking. I love the eggplant, mushroom, and millet meatballs (pg. 141) over simple zucchini pasta. The butternut squash risotto makes an incredible arancini the following day (pg. 263). Black beans show off the flavors of squash in enchiladas (pg. 259), while peas enhance sweet potatoes in samosas (pg. 196). This cookbook is a staple in my kitchen. –review by Becky

 
redpartsTHE RED PARTS
Maggie Nelson
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be, hereafter. A red part.” Sometimes, in life, something happens that is so dreadful, so horrifying and painful, that all we can do is bear witness, all we can do is be there and later say Yes, this awful thing happened. The Red Parts reinvents literary true crime as Nelson explores the 1969 murder of her aunt, Jane, set against the backdrop of the 2004 murder trial of Jane’s alleged murderer, a trial which hinges on one drop of blood. Once again, Nelson produces prose which is shockingly public and yet deeply intimate. She explore grief, forgiveness, and the ways which the two have shaped her life, the lives of her loved ones, and the landscape of modern humanity.

 
alittlelifeA LITTLE LIFE
Hanya Yanagihara
There are so many books about men, their careers and relationships and interior lives, but none quite like this. Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm meet in college. Over the following decades their friendships endure, deepen and change, wane and renew, until what appears to be a story about families and coming-of-age develops into something more complex, a story that lives within the very marrow of our bones, and is both more intimate and wider in scope than we could ever imagine. The writing is beautiful. The time line folds over, weaving around and through, in a deliberate way that slowly reveals the landscape of humanity. A finalist for both the Man Booker and National Book Award, this brilliant novel should have won the Pulitzer.

 
nordictheoryofeverythingTHE NORDIC THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Anu Partanen
In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Anu Partanen, a Finnish-born journalist who married an American, explores how many policies and ideals Americans believe make us more free actually do the opposite. The Nordic theory of love states that authentic love and friendship are only possible between people who are independent and equal. According to Partanen, this mentality dictates policies that support the freedom of individuals, such as equal access to health care and education. She explains how current American policies create unequal relationships between parents and children, romantic partners, and employees and employers. Far from advocating a switch from democratic to socialist values, Partanen expresses admiration and affection for her new country, and simply explores ways to make her beloved new home a “well-being” state.

 
thejustcityTHE JUST CITY
Jo Walton
“Nothing Mortal can last. At best it can leave legends that can bear fruit in later ages.” The Just City is an experiment in mixing genres: Greek mythology, science-fiction, fantasy, history, and philosophy collide in this fast-paced and thought-provoking novel about Plato’s Republic. Apollo, jilted and confused, decides to try mortality for a while in an effort to learn more about “equal significance and volition.” His sister, Athene, suggests he live as a mortal inside her experimental world—the first known attempt to create Plato’s Republic. However, even a goddess cannot foresee what will happen if Plato’s blueprints for justice are too theoretical to put into practice. Told in alternating voices, this literary mash-up is both entertaining and challenging, and affirms Walton’s place as an innovative storyteller. –review by Becky

 
gosetawatchmanGO SET A WATCHMAN
Harper Lee
The most important thing we can say about this book is that we are not reading a sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a first draft, which affords readers an unheard of glimpse into the origins of an American classic. Go Set a Watchman carries Lee’s hallmark wit and kernels of her wisdom and can be read as a novel separate from To Kill a Mockingbird; however, this book acts as a companion more than anything else.

 
onimmunityON IMMUNITY: AN INNOCULATION
Eula Biss
“Immunity is a public space. And it can be occupied by those who choose not to carry immunity.” As a new mother skeptical of vaccinations and modern medicine, Biss set out to discover the truth about vaccinations. The result is a fascinating, well-researched and beautifully written examination of what immunity, and vaccination, means in our society. Biss draws from her experiences as a young mother, from historic and scientific record, from mythology, literature, philosophy and economics to discuss how people conceptualize vaccinations. This book is an inoculation against fear and misunderstanding, and an argument that vaccination is an act of love—for a child, for ourselves, and for our fellow man.

 
MY REAL CHILDREN
Jo Walton
One woman, two possible lives hinging on one phone call placed in 1949: Now or never, Mark’s voice crackles across the distance. Now, she says and becomes Tricia—a wife, mother, and housemaid. Never, she says and becomes Pat—a lover, mum, and successful writer. One life, or two lives? In 2015, Tricia/Pat remembers both of her lives, even as she spirals into the dementia that took her mother. Walton creates a believable alternative world history for each life, exploring the natures of memory, fate, and the mechanisms that shaped the 20th century. Phenomenal!

 

delicious!DELICIOUS!
Ruth Reichl
The debut novel by renown food critic and best-selling author Ruth Reichl lives up to the name: Delicious!. I don’t know what part of me loves this book the most: the foodie; the library-lover; or story junkie. Reichl mixes the simplest ingredients to create a word feast that is both decadent and satisfying: an unminted journalist with an unusual flavor palette; a struggling food magazine; a small, family-owned cheese and delicacy shop; a locked library; and letters from a precocious aspiring cook to James Beard during WWII. Lulu’s letters and recipes paint a clear picture of wartime America, and baker-turned journalist Billie Breslin’s experiences at Delicious and the Fontanari’s shop are a fun foray into the flavors and textures in the modern food-world.

 

onsuchafullseaON SUCH A FULL SEA
Chang-Rae Lee
China controls most of the world, including North America. Temperatures increase because of global warming, and cancer runs rampant—a fate generally accepted as unavoidable. Books have all but vanished, along with domesticated animals and outdoor farming. All food is grown in sterile tanks, tended to by working-class citizens living in worker-settlements, while the bulk of the food carted off and sold in the upper-class, wealthy communities. When Fan, a young tank diver, leaves her working-settlement (known as B-Mor) to find her vanished lover, she sparks a thought-revolution among those left behind. Both a folk-tale and an alarming prediction, this remarkable novel reminds me of a Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro. Haunting, devastating and hopeful, this story lives far beyond the confines of the book. –review by Becky

 

lexiconLEXICON
Max Barry
Warning: Reading this book may cause elevated heart rate and/or dry-mouth—and cost you a day off and/or a night’s sleep. From the first shocking pages, Lexicon exerts a mind-control on the reader—making us helpless to resist Barry’s warped, alternative reality. Connecting ancient concepts of language and persuasion with modern issues of data mining and privacy, this is a wholly original and smart thriller. Barry rigged explosions in all of the right places and threw plot twists fast and hard over the plate, reminding me of a cross between Chris Cline and Neal Stephenson.

 

arcadiaARCADIA, by Lauren Groff
Set on a commune in New York State during the 1970s, Groff’s prose simultaneously romanticizes and illuminate the realities of rural community life, finding a balance between the hilarity and tragedy of living off the land in a mostly commercial and industrialized world. Wide in scope, full of heart and quirky humor, the rise and fall of the Arcadia House community is narrated by the ever lovable Bit, the first child of Arcadia, who stole my heart from the first page. If you like Brady Udall, Tom Perrotta or loved, The Monsters of Templeton, read this original coming-of-age tale next!

 

roundhouseTHE ROUND HOUSE, by Louise Erdrich
Returning to the Ojibwe reservation (rez) in North Dakota for the first time since The Plague of Doves, Erdrich’s newest book is a luminous tale of familial love with a terrible accident at the heart. Part mystery, part Native American history and part coming of age tale, Erdrich’s story captures the complexity of human relationships, our frailty and resilience and the place where the two meet. This book brings up morality and mortality without preaching, and beautifully evokes the traditions of Native American culture.  I love this book and cannot recommend this highly enough.

 
therosieproject2THE ROSIE PROJECT
Graeme Simsion
This book is a riotous piece of feel-good fiction that had me in stitches and cheering aloud. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who lives by routines, timetables and a standardized meal system – until he creates a questionnaire to help him find the perfect wife, and meets Rosie. A romantic comedy and coming of age/midlife crisis tale, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that feels so good!

 

familylifeFAMILY LIFE
Akhil Sharma
Three minutes can change everything. Ajay is eight-years old when his family emigrates from India to America in the late 1970s. In India Ajay and his brother, Birju, are frugal in a way that means they are “sensitive to the physical reality of our world.” They split matches in half and save the cotton batting from pill bottles. In America they live in an apartment in Queens with 24-hour television programming and indoor plumbing. Birju adjusts well in America while Ajay struggles to assimilate. Then Birju suffers a terrible accident and everything changes. Ajay’s narrative is simplistic, honest and authentically childlike—but his observations are startlingly adult. He subtly compares and contrasts Indian and American customs, reveals the immigrant experience, and sheds light into the murky world of living with disabilities. This is the story of a generation of Indian immigrants and of hope in the face of despair.

 
womeninclothesWOMEN IN CLOTHES
Heti, Julavits, Shapton, & 639 Others
Fashion is not about what’s new on the runway, or “hot” this season. We unconsciously build our sense of style as we watch our mothers, interact with friends, interpret the media, take and lose lovers, and find our place in the world. This is a frank discussion between real women about real fashion. What is the difference between style and taste? Why does our favorite ratty t-shirt (or jeans, cowgirl boots, etc) make us feel sexy? What is the surprising freedom of a Burka? How are the constraints of gender reflected in fashion? This is a gorgeous portrait of modern women, and the clothing they live in, created through essays, surveys, and correspondence between the editors. This is the slumber party conversation we all wish we had as teenagers, no ouija board required. Real talk, by real women, about what really matters. –review by Becky

 

descentDESCENT
Tim Johnston
The Rocky Mountains, with their mysterious and terrible beauty, are the perfect backdrop for this literary thriller. When a routine morning run turns into a dizzying descent into the terrifying unknown the Courtands’ already fractured lives shatter: One teenager is in the hospital, the other is missing—abducted. The story unfolds in alternating perspectives, revealing the truth about what happened on the mountain that morning as well as starling insights into the Courtland’s lives, before and after the accident. The writing is well-paced and rich with adjectives. The characters are flawed and wonderfully alive. The writing is well-paced and rich with adjectives. The characters are flawed and wonderfully alive. The Courtlands will keep you up all night.