Book List, Holiday, Seasonal Picks

Jólabókaflóð: Contemporary Fiction

The last few holiday seasons at the store, we’ve really embraced the idea of celebrating Jólabókaflóð, an Icelandic tradition of giving your loved ones a book and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. It just feels like a tradition that fits an indie bookstore so perfectly. This morning we’re sharing the contemporary fiction novels we have on display!

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Shore continues Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop series and in this installment she takes us back to the small village of Kirrinfief on the banks of Loch Ness. Our new heroine is responsible for Nina’s book bus while she’s awaiting the birth of her first “wee bairn” and it’s another charming book of love and hope in the Scottish Highlands.

Sarah

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.
Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her four year old son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where shouting football fans keep them awake all night. Hari’s dad, Jaz, a charismatic but perpetually broke DJ, is no help at all. But his sister Surinder comes to Zoe’s aid, hooking her up with a job as far away from the urban crush as possible: a bookshop on the banks of Loch Ness. And there’s a second job to cover housing: Zoe will be an au pair for three children at a genuine castle in the Scottish Highlands. 
But while Scotland is everything Zoe dreamed of—clear skies, brisk fresh air, blessed quiet—everything else is a bit of a mess. The Urquart family castle is grand, but crumbling, the childrens’ single dad is a wreck, and the kids have been kicked out of school and left to their own devices. Zoe has her work cut out for her, and is determined to rise to the challenge, especially when she sees how happily Hari has taken to their new home.
With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund

There are so few good books with college-age protagonists and for years I thought I wouldn’t be able to bring this one into the store. I first read it the summer before I left for college, when Gilmore Girls was still on the air and everyone was obsessed with the Life and Death Brigade. Written by a Yale alum, Amy’s secret society is way more fun than Rory and Logan’s!

Sarah

Fans of Beautiful Disaster will devour Diana Peterfreund’s Ivy League novels—Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, Rites of Spring (Break), and Tap & Gown. At an elite university, Amy Haskel has been initiated into the country’s most notorious secret society. But in this power-hungry world where new blood is at the mercy of old money, hooking up with the wrong people could be fatal. 
Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or . . . well, male. So when Amy is one of the first female students to receive the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her? 
Whisked off into an elaborate initiation rite, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors and she does not disappoint with her latest novel. This is a fictional tale of Hillary Clintons life story. As the book begins we discover how Hillary and Bill meet and date but eventually end up with other people. With the authors vivid imagination she weaves the story of Hillary and her eventful life without Bill and her subsequent presidential race where Bill is her opponent.

Pam

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. 
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

I eagerly waited for this book and it did not disappoint.  This is the story of Jake and Mallory who meet in 1993, during Labor Day weekend, for a bachelor party held in Mallory’s brother’s honor.  However, the party is a disaster, and everyone leaves except Mallory and Jake and so begins their intense, 28 year, summer relationship.  It is reminiscent of the movie, Same Time Next Year, with Jake and Mallory only meeting each year during Labor Day weekend in Nantucket at Mallory’s beach cottage.  During the other 362 days, except in a leap year, they live with their respective families, which for Jake is his wife Ursula, who has political ambitions, and his daughter, while Mallory is a teacher and single mother raising a son in Nantucket.   

Pam

A “captivating and bittersweet” novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Summer of ’69: Their secret love affair has lasted for decades—but this could be the summer that changes everything (People).
When Mallory Blessing’s son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he’s not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It’s the late spring of 2020 and Jake’s wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.
There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?
Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother’s bachelor party. Cooper’s friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere—through marriage, children, and Ursula’s stratospheric political rise—until Mallory learns she’s dying.
Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

I really enjoyed this novel because it made me think about how well I know myself and those around me. As the story begins Julian, a lonely widow and semi-famous artist, leaves a green notebook labeled the Authenticity Project at Monica’s cafe. Inside Julian writes about his life and challenges the next person, who finds it, to do the same and answer the following question; share your truth and reveal the one thing about you that defines you and makes everything about you fall into place. As the notebook is discovered by Monica and Hazard and Riley and others new friendships are created and truths about oneself revealed.

Pam

The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love.
Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist and septuagenarian believes that most people aren’t really honest with each other. But what if they were? And so he writes–in a plain, green journal–the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. It’s run by the incredibly tidy and efficient Monica, who furtively adds her own entry and leaves the book in the wine bar across the street. Before long, the others who find the green notebook add the truths about their own deepest selves–and soon find each other In Real Life at Monica’s Café.
The Authenticity Project‘s cast of characters–including Hazard, the charming addict who makes a vow to get sober; Alice, the fabulous mommy Instagrammer whose real life is a lot less perfect than it looks online; and their other new friends–is by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It’s a story about being brave and putting your real self forward–and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.
The Authenticity Project is just the tonic for our times that readers are clamoring for–and one they will take to their hearts and read with unabashed pleasure.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

I really enjoyed this novel and it made me laugh and cry. Our story is about two women, Dannie and her best friend Bella who grew up together in two very different households. Dannie is a highly motivated corporate lawayer with a life plan and knows she will marry her longtime boyfriend David. Whereas Bella, is not a planner, and moves through life to the beat of her own drum and jumps from one relationship to the next until she meets Aaron Gregory. However, fate has different plans for both Bella and Dannie. Ultimately, the story is about love and frienship between two women.

Pam

Perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day—a striking, powerful, and moving love story following an ambitious lawyer who experiences an astonishing vision that could change her life forever.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.
She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.
But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

This book is a true slice of life story that many people will relate to in one way or another. The main character is in her mid- twenties and goes through a lot of things that people of this age group go through. There are a lot of discussions talking about mental health that I thought were really important. Queenie is a well-written character, and I feel like I learned a lot from her.

Anna

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.
Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

Lucy is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a girl who moves to America from the West Indies. There are points at which she is pleased with her decision, and others where she finds herself missing home more than she thought she would. She remembers her mother and grandmother, and things from home that you simply can’t find in America. In Lucy, Kincaid covers an expanse of topics – from race to class to society to sexuality – skillfully, making this a must read for several reasons.

Asma

The coming-of-age story of one of Jamaica Kincaid’s most admired creations–newly available in paperback.
Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, alomst at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is.
At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity–a captivating heroine for our time.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

Emma Straub, author and bookstore owner (Books are Magic in NYC), is the master of family dysfunctional dramedies and her most recent book, All Adults Here, is her best so far. If you love a good contemporary family fiction story, this one is for you!

Sarah

A warm, funny, and keenly perceptive novel about the life cycle of one family–as the kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. From the New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers.
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?
Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild

The phrase “pomp and whimsy” kept coming into my head while reading – the idea of an aristocrat family in a shambling castle has been a favorite of mine since I first read I Capture the Castle years ago. I immediately wanted to know more about the characters and their lives – and I have a great idea to pull all of my favorite families in dilapidated castles books for a display at the store in the spring!

Sarah

From the author of The Improbability of Love: a dazzling novel both satirical and moving, about an eccentric, dysfunctional family of English aristocrats, and their crumbling stately home that reminds us how the lives and hopes of women can still be shaped by the ties of family and love.
For more than seven hundred years, the vast, rambling Trelawney Castle in Cornwall–turrets, follies, a room for every day of the year, four miles of corridors and 500,000 acres–was the magnificent and grand “three dimensional calling card” of the earls of Trelawney. By 2008, it is in a complete state of ruin due to the dulled ambition and the financial ineptitude of the twenty-four earls, two world wars, the Wall Street crash, and inheritance taxes. Still: the heir to all of it, Kitto, his wife, Jane, their three children, their dog, Kitto’s ancient parents, and his aunt Tuffy Scott, an entomologist who studies fleas, all manage to live there and keep it going. Four women dominate the story: Jane; Kitto’s sister, Blaze, who left Trelawney and made a killing in finance in London, the wildly beautiful, seductive, and long-ago banished Anastasia and her daughter, Ayesha. When Anastasia sends a letter announcing that her nineteen-year-old daughter, Ayesha, will be coming to stay, the long-estranged Blaze and Jane must band together to take charge of their new visitor–and save the house of Trelawney. But both Blaze and Jane are about to discover that the house itself is really only a very small part of what keeps the family together.

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

I highly recommend this funny story for any mother who has a child going to/or is in college. Our story begins with our heroine Eve, a single mother, sending her beloved son and only child off to his first year of college. Eve is alone for the first time in 18 years and feels like something is missing and so begins her journey to bring meaning and fulfillment back into her life.

Pam

A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve Fletcher is struggling to adjust to her empty nest. One night she receives a text from an anonymous number that says, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center and taking a community college course on Gender and Society—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website that features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.
Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

A multigenerational family story set in the beer halls and breweries of the Midwest, this story was a perfect pandemic read for me – full of warmth, heart, and humor, and feminism! The main characters reminded me so much of my family (particularly the sisterly relationship and grandmother) that I didn’t want to ever leave the world Stradal crafted so magnificently.

Sarah

A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest.
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can’t help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.
With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it’s not too late.
Meanwhile, Edith’s granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up–will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?
Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved, and delighted.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

1989. Salem, Massachusetts. Are there homages to the witches, and maybe even actual witches? Of course. Lots of ’80s nostalgia? Duh. While this may be better suited to a Halloween read, it’s the perfect book for your quirky friend that it’s next to impossible to find the perfect book for.

Sarah

Acclaimed novelist Quan Barry delivers a tour de female force in this delightful novel. Set in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, We Ride Upon Sticks follows the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team, who will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. In chapters dense with 1980s iconography—from Heathers to “big hair”—Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.
Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship.

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

I fell in love with Zelda just from reading the back cover (and I’m partial to all things Vikings.) I found myself completely enthralled with her and her life outlook, as well as how she responded to the world around her. Despite all challenges in front of her (namely her brother), she found ways to thrive in her own way. I’m so excited to share this book with so many customers at the bookstore!

Sarah

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

  1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
  2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
  3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
  4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
  5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

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