Welcome to Sharon's recommendations! Sharon was a bookseller at her campus bookstore when she was in college. After a gap of 20 years during which she was a legal assistant, an apprentice chef, and a switchboard operator, she returned to bookselling at the Shorewood Schwartz store. She is the magazine buyer, and one of our second hand book buyers, as well as a bookseller. Some of her favorite authors include Geraldine Brooks, Simon Van Booy, and Louise Penny.
Check out what Sharon has been reading below!
This is the story of Graham Cavanaugh, his second wife Audra, and their ten-year-old son, Matthew. Matthew has Asperger’s and is obsessed with origami. Graham’s first wife, Elspeth, is quite different from Audra, and this concerns Graham at times. This novel is a snapshot of the Cavanaughs’ lives; everything from dinner parties to origami conventions to bedtime rituals for Matthew. Not a great deal happens in this book, but the characters are so delightful, and the story is told with so much humor that I did not even notice until I had almost finished it. Normally, I am all about plot, but in this case, the characters were all I needed.
"Harvey is only six when her parents are killed in a car accident. Jason is her only living relation, a gruff loner with a criminal past and a sketchy career. As her uncle, he grudgingly agrees to take her into his less than child-friendly home. This turns out to be the best situation for both of them. Harvey finds a place of love and security, while Jason gets a second chance, and discovers that he can change his own life by caring for someone else. Van Booy’s spare and achingly beautiful prose will engage the reader and affect him or her long after the story is finished." --Sharon
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a retelling of Pride and Prejudice must be cleverly written and wickedly funny. Curtis Sittenfeld has accomplished that with her fantastic new novel. The Bennet sisters have been transported to modern day Cincinnati. Jane is a yoga instructor, Liz, a writer for a women’s magazine, Lydia and Kitty do nothing but work out, and Mary spends most of her time in her room. The two older sisters live in New York, but have come home to check on Mr. Bennet, who is recovering from a heart attack. The storyline is one that will be familiar to most Austen readers, but with some extremely funny twists. I thoroughly enjoyed Eligible from start to finish. Even for a confirmed Austen fan like myself, there were some pleasant surprises."
I had no idea what to expect from Peter Heller’s latest novel, but I was immediately drawn in and could not stop reading. His title character, Celine, is a woman of a certain age who also happens to be a private detective. She only takes cases that involve reuniting families. Celine herself is fascinating; she comes from a wealthy, privileged background, yet can also shoot with deadly accuracy. When a young woman named Gabriela engages her services to find out what happened to her missing father, I was completely hooked. Although this sounds like a straight genre mystery, it is not only that. The prose is beautiful, the sense of place is exquisitely wrought, and the characters so well developed that I longed to spend more time with them. I am now going to catch up on Heller’s earlier works, The Dog Stars and The Painter.
A mass school shooting has taken place in a suburb of Stockholm. 18-year-old Maja Norberg is on trial for her involvement in this shocking act. Her boyfriend and her best friend are dead. The story is told mostly through what happens in the courtroom. Did Maja, a popular, privileged teenager, incite her boyfriend to commit this heinous crime, or was she merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no knowledge of what the shooter had planned? This novel is a fascinating look at modern society, class, race, and the definition of justice.
Jane Hamilton's latest novel is about Mary Frances Lombard, a young girl growing up on her family's orchard in rural Wisconsin. There is family tension, love, and lots and lots of apples. Mary Frances thinks it is perfect, but perhaps that is because it is all she knows. She just assumes that she and her brother William will grow up and take over ownership of the orchard, while their parents want much more for their children than this challenging way of life. A charming coming-of-age story set comfortably in Wisconsin that will appeal to all readers.
"This mesmerizing debut novel is loosely based on Charles Manson and the murders in 1969. However, the focus of the story is Evie Boyd, a fourteen year old girl who finds herself drawn to the Ranch, a community of hippies, and their charismatic leader, Russell. Evie’s parents are divorced, and she is caught in the crevice between them, desperately wanting to be noticed and to fit in. She draws the attention of Suzanne, one of Russell’s girls, who sees her as a source of money and food. Little by little, Evie is brought under the spell of the Ranch, staying there for periods of time and lying to her mother. This novel speaks directly to the heart of what it means to walk through the world as a teenage girl, the desperate longing for acceptance, and the yearning for love and attention. Perhaps, also, the willingness to do almost anything to maintain that sense of belonging once it is found."
Samantha Irby is a writer whose essays make you feel like you immediately want to be friends with her. She would probably prefer that you keep your distance. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is an exuberant collection of eye-wateringly honest essays that will touch you deeply as well as cause you to roll on the floor with laughter. This is not the book for your Aunt Joan if she is put off by profanity or descriptive sexual detail. I found it hilarious as well as touching. Candid and well written excerpts from the life of an extremely interesting woman.
The latest offering from Joshilyn Jackson is a delightful mix of humor, romance, awkward family dynamics, and completely up-to-the-minute social issues. I know it’s early but The Almost Sisters is in the running for one of my favorites of 2017. Leia Birch Briggs is a 38-year-old graphic novelist of midlevel fame. She has a one-night stand at a comic-con with a mysterious and attractive Batman. This results in a little more than morning-after regrets when Leia learns that she is pregnant. While she is deciding best how to break the news of an illegitimate biracial baby to her upstanding Southern family, other more pressing concerns take precedence. Leia learns that her beloved 90-year old-grandmother is suffering from dementia, and covering it up with the help of her best friend, Wattie. Furthermore, Leia’s perfect sister Rachel, is having trouble with her perfect marriage. Things escalate when Leia finds out that her grandmother is hiding a bigger secret in the attic. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, The Almost Sisters is almost perfect.
This is the story of Julia and Cassie, best friends growing up in a small town in Massachusetts. Julia is looking back on the events of their lives and remembering the girl that she had known since nursery school. Cassie and Julia mean everything to each other, until they don't, and they begin to grow apart as they make different choices and groups of friends. Messud perfectly captures that time when we first discover people outside of our families who take up residence in our hearts.
Right from the beginning, Roxane Gay lets us know that this is not a weight-loss success story, but a memoir so deeply personal that it was extremely difficult for her to write. Parts of it are also extremely difficult to read. Every woman that breathes has issues with her body, food, and her weight, not matter what her size. Gay holds nothing back as she tells of the sexual assault that changed her forever when she was 12 years old. She concealed the trauma from her family and dealt with it the only way she knew how, by eating until her body was no longer desirable to men, but a fortress in which she could hide and protect herself from the world. She candidly explains how it feels to be at once so large and so invisible, as she moves through a world that is less than kind when it comes to judging women’s bodies.
"Nature vs. Nurture is an age-old controversy. Does a boy become the man he is because of his genes or his upbringing? Franklin Starlight is a 16-year-old Ojibwe boy who was raised by a man who is not his father and is not Indian. He teaches him self-reliance, the value of hard work, and integrity. Eldon, his real father, is an alcoholic who he has rarely seen and who has given him nothing but disappointment. Now his father is dying, and wants Franklin to accompany him into the back country to help him die and be buried in the warrior way. Father and son take a slow painful journey, physically and emotionally, as Eldon tells his story – his own childhood, service in the Korean War, and most importantly, his relationship with Franklin’s mother, Angie, who died giving birth to her son. A flawlessly written novel about the stories that make us who we are." --Sharon
"Damon Tweedy is a bright and studious young man, attending Duke University Medical School on a full scholarship. Like most of his classmates, he is hardworking, motivated, and ambitious. What sets him apart is his race and socioeconomic status. Most of the other medical students come from white, privileged backgrounds. Damon is black, and attended a state university. In one of his first semesters, the professor asked him if he was there to fix the lights. When Tweedy replied that he was a medical student, the teacher was completely taken aback. This kind of prejudice is alive and well in today’s practice of medicine. Dr. Tweedy explores encountering racial discrimination as both a physician and a patient. Fascinating and eye-opening, Black Man in a White Coat is a valuable read for anyone who thinks that the struggle for racial equality is over." --Sharon
"While visiting her wealthy parents in Port-au-Prince, Mireille Jameson is kidnapped in front of her family. Her father, a prominent citizen, has a strict policy of not paying ransoms. The story moves back and forth between the horror that Mireille undergoes at the hands of her captors, and her personal history, both as a daughter of Haiti, and as a wife and mother. What happens to her while she is held prisoner is only part of the story. When she is released, she must regain her sense of person, and conquer the fear that engulfs her. An Untamed State is a bold and unvarnished novel that will open the reader’s eyes to a part of the world that they may not be familiar with. I highly recommend it." --Sharon
"An act of mercy that takes place on a field in France during World War II is the nucleus of this book. All the other characters and events are connected in a gorgeous tapestry that is slowly and masterfully revealed to the reader. This novel is based on a true story and is a lovely illustration that separateness is indeed an illusion, and that we are all connected. Rilke said something along the line of "Words can only point at emotions." This is quite accurate as I read this most amazing of novels almost a month ago and have only lately been about to talk about it in full sentences. Seriously, I have rarely been so affected by a book in recent memory." --Sharon
"A pandemic called Dragonscale has infected civilization, and threatens to end it. The contagion spreads, for want of a better term, like wildfire, and people are spontaneously combusting. Harper Grayson is a nurse who is struggling to save those who are infected. When she contracts Dragonscale, her husband turns on her. She is rescued by an enigmatic man known only as The Fireman, who takes her to a camp made up of those who have learned to control their disease. Longtime fans of Joe Hill and his father, Stephen King, will enjoy the homage to King’s masterpiece The Stand. New readers will appreciate the work on its own merit, as Joe Hill has certainly earned his place among writers of note." --Sharon
Deep in the forest is a place where woodland creatures live together in harmony. Moose and mice, owls and bears, and many more call the charming village of Shady Hollow home. All is well, until a toad is found floating facedown in the millpond. It's something these folks haven't seen before: a murder.
What would you do if you knew (or thought you knew) the exact date of your death? Would you do whatever you wished, not wanting to waste a moment, or would you live in fear, terrified about what will happen? This is the situation that the Gold children face after they visit a fortune teller in the summer of 1969. They are very young, from 7-year old Simon to 13-year-old Varya. Each one meets separately with the Gypsy woman, who tells them the date of their deaths. They don't share the information with each other, except for Simon, who, it is predicted, will die young. This compelling novel follows each of the Gold siblings throughout their lives. Simon moves to San Francisco at the age of 16, and becomes a ballet dancer. Klara pursues her dream of becoming a magician, first in San Francisco, and then in Las Vegas. Daniel is a military doctor with a wife named Mira. Varya remains single, and becomes a scientist, studying longevity in primates and humans. Each character follows his or her destiny, but how much they are influenced by their knowledge is different for each one. It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe that a person can predict the future, you won’t be able to stop reading until you find out if the characters in The Immortalists believe it.
Elena Richardson lives a well-planned life in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She has a successful husband, a respected career, a large house, and four beautiful children. She believes that she is so blessed because she has always followed the rules. When Mia and her daughter Pearl come to town, her beliefs are shaken a little. Mia is a single mom, an artist who gets by on part-time minimum wage jobs. Mia rents a house from Elena and eventually becomes the Richardson’s housekeeper and cook. Pearl becomes involved with the Richardson kids on various levels. When friends of the Richardsons try to adopt a Chinese-American baby, there is a custody battle with the baby’s birth mother that divides the town. This is a beautifully written novel that explores the meaning of motherhood, privilege, and the things that make up a contented and safe existence. Having to make the choice between following your passion and sacrificing your own needs for those of your children.
Amber Reynolds is a radio presenter who is in a coma at the beginning of the novel. We are privy to her thoughts, as well as her diary when she was a child, and the events leading up to the event that placed her in the hospital. I assumed that this was the latest in a slew of books vying to be the latest Girl on the Train. However, this thriller definitely elevates the genre. The story is certainly gripping, and the narrative cleverly constructed. My inner Nancy Drew was quite disappointed not to be able to figure out the twist before it occurred, creating a compulsive desire to find out WHAT HAPPENS. A rapid-paced and exciting read!