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Jill's picks!
Cold Comfort Farm (Unabridged) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781607964100
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: - February 10th, 2012

Written largely as a parody of 19th century British novels that take place in the countryside (think Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence), this novel is populated with hilarious versions of such dreary characters as old Adam who tends to the cows, Aimless, Feckless, Graceless and Pointless, and a whole family of hapless Starkadders. Our heroine, Flora Poste, could have walked right out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel. She is bracingly clear, determined and firm in her commitment to change the lives of the cousins who inhabit Cold Comfort Farm. Flora is delightfully well-drawn; if not exactly likeable, she is a voice you will not forget.

A nice light choice for those in need of a read where everything is tied up neatly and happily in the end.


The Call Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062023148
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - August 2nd, 2011

This is a story of one year in the life of a New England country vet and his family told in a journal-entry format that works surprisingly well to convey a warm, caring, yet distinctly masculine voice.

Ms. Murphy humorously and unsentimentally captures the marriage and family dynamic and though a lot happens in this spare, 220-page paperback original some of my favorite parts are those that depict their day to day life.


The Magicians Cover Image
ISBN: 9780452296299
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Plume Books - May 25th, 2010

Yes, this does live up to its reputation for being a “Harry-Potter-for-grownups”, but it’s much more than that—it’s sophisticated, ironic fantasy that features a young man obsessed with a Narnia-like series of children’s books who winds up attending a college for wizards. The atmosphere at this school is not particularly Hogwarts-like though. The professors aren’t as caring and the students are very much like today’s non-magical college students. Eventually they graduate and migrate to NYC and do very adult things and make adult mistakes. Not content with that, they move on to other realms. Grossman makes this coming-of-age novel an absorbing read for both fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike.


The Children's Book Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307473066
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books USA - August 10th, 2010

A very rich, dense novel that chronicles the lives of a small group of families in England from 1895 through the end of WWI. Byatt packs in every conceivable detail about the art, politics, theater, emerging women’s suffrage and children’s literature of the period in between her scintillating story lines that focus on, among many other subjects, father-figure/daughter-figure relationships. Some critics grew impatient with the amount of historical detail—I loved it. (Now I know about the Fabian Society!)

If you are looking for a fast-moving, plot-driven story this won’t work for you, but if you like Byatt, liked her earlier masterpiece Possession then you will enjoy this most recent effort of hers as well.


Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, a Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416561002
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - June 8th, 2010

If you think this is one of those urban-couple-heads-for-the-country-and-creates-an-idyllic-pastoral-life-and-makes-it-sound-easy, you’d be a little bit right.
But this is so much more than that.

Kessler, a novelist, brings a literary sensibility to this memoir that, beyond acquiring a few goats and learning to make cheese, touches on the pastoral songs of herders, the teamwork involved in haying, Thomas Merton, monastery bells and the sex life of goats!


Blindspot Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385526203
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Spiegel & Grau - December 29th, 2009

Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore, history professors at Brandeis and Harvard respectively, collaborated on this fun (and at times quite bawdy) romp though 18th century Boston.

This is decidedly a work of fiction and, if taken as such, an amusing read for fans of literary historical fiction.

Portrait painter Stuart Jameson (modeled somewhat after Gilbert Stuart) arrives in Boston and needs an apprentice. Fanny Easton is a young woman in desperate circumstances who dreams of becoming an artist. She disguises herself as teenage boy and is chosen as Jameson's apprentice. These characters alternate narrating the story, which has elements of murder mystery as well as the aforementioned romance and comedy.

A book meant to be read curled up by the fire, perhaps with a cup of hot buttered rum?


Dog Years: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061171017
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - April 8th, 2008

A lovely memoir by poet Mark Doty, Dog Years is so much more than simply a great book about life with dogs. Doty tells his tale in non-linear fashion, interspersing musings on grief, loss, humanity, canines and the interior world of his dogs Arden and Beau with recollections of his last days with his dying partner Wally, finding new love, the touching ways his dogs help him cope and many delightful stories that bring Arden and Beau so much to life.

It ends in an inevitable way, but this book is no downer. It made me smile.


Letters from Yellowstone Cover Image
ISBN: 9780140291810
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - June 1st, 2000

A young woman attending Cornell in 1898 longs to join a botanical expedition in Yellowstone National Park. She is invited to do so by the professor who assumes the student who wrote to him, "A. E. Bartram" is male. Rather than becoming a tedious comedy of mistaken identity, this lovely, short novel does not dwell on that but instead proceeds with the story of how Alex contributes to the expedition and also learns how much she values her freedom and individuality.

I particularly enjoyed this epistolary novel's form; one has to read between the lines of the letters sent between the major characters to get the whole story.

No car chases here, but it was definitely my idea of a good summer read!


The Ruby in Her Navel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393330823
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 17th, 2007

Twelfth Century Sicily comes alive as a bustling, crowded place with vivid colors and vivid characters

The Highest Tide Cover Image
ISBN: 9781582346298
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - April 4th, 2006

I was initially attracted to this book because of its setting-Washington State's Puget Sound---and was not disappointed, as it richly evokes the environmental wonders of the Pacific Northwest. What kept me interested was the portrayal of the main character, 13 year old Miles O'Malley. Lynch successfully captures the many dimensions of a young, bright teenage boy and takes us through one summer in his life. While Miles can teach others about the marine life he finds in the tidal flats, he has to learn how to communicate with his mentor, his elderly neighbor, his love interest and his best friend.

The pleasant surprise for me was the book's potential for broad appeal--it will be an interesting read for teens as well adults.


The Hummingbird's Daughter Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316154529
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - April 3rd, 2006

This novel sweeps you into pre-revolutionary Mexico, into life on a hacienda. It is the story of Teresita, the illegitimate but beloved daughter of the patron of the ranch, Don Tomas. She shows early promise as a healer, so Huila, the curandera, takes her under her wing.

This is a sumptuously written book, full of well-developed characters and rich detail yet it never gets bogged down. While at times the story can take an amusing turn, at the heart it is a moving father/daughter story.

If you are looking to lose yourself in a work of literary historical fiction, this one should do nicely.