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2017 Book List - Fiction

America’s First Daughter, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie.  "Excellent! It’s historical fiction, written from the POV of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha 'Patsy' Jefferson Randall. It begins with the family’s flight from the British after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and ends a few years after his death, when Patsy assumed the duties of first lady to bachelor Andrew Jackson.  Filled with family drama, politics (of both the American and French Revolutions), romance and LOTS of kids (scary to think of life before birth control!), it also provides wonderful insight into Jefferson, the man, champion for liberty and the slaveholder.  (Sally Hemmings is featured throughout the book, although the authors acknowledge literary license was employed to link together well-hidden facts.)  Both fascinating and charming – I highly recommend!"

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan. “This is a beautifully written, very sad book about a Kashmiri terrorist who detonates a bomb in a crowded Delhi market and a family whose sons are its victims.  The title refers to an NGO started by that family to unify and comfort victims of bombings that do not impact enough people to elicit much support.  It’s a complicated story that spans many years and which, surprisingly, manages to make the terrorist a sympathetic character”.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  From the back cover:  "One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.  Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows among them.When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another."

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day.  "A propulsive psychological thriller about Anna Winger, a handwriting analyst who occasionally does work for the FBI.  Her ordinary professional detachment falters when she is is brought in to help analyze a ransom note left at a murder scene in her town. This particular case cuts very close, forcing single mother Anna to confont ghosts from her own past, and threatening the life she's tried to build with her 13-year-old son."

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach. "Reminiscent of Gone Girl, this novel centers on an identical twin who sends postmortem notes, letters and signals to her sister about her death.  The story is good, but the characters are universally unlikeable, which makes it a little difficult to really lose yourself".

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo. “Fans of Russo’s Nobody’s Fool will love this sequel (decades later) which picks up on the life of Sully, a charming but mess of a guy in a small upstate New York town (also kind of down on its luck) whose life has always been full of trouble– it’s still a mess but there is a lot of beauty and love, and memorable”.

Falling by Jane Green. "Formulaic Jane Green fiction, which is why it’s perfect for a summer read.  British gal has heartbreak, moves from Manhattan to Westport, CT, meets rough-and-tumble single dad.  Making out ensues, as does tragedy.  Blah blah, blah …. pour some rose and crack this one open.  It’s a fun, easy read".

Fallout by Gwenda Bond (and sequel Double Down). “Both I and my middle school daughter loved this Young Adult novel (and it’s sequel) about a tough cookie Lois Lane in high school, dealing with friends, an internship at the newspaper, a tough Army General as a father, and an online relationship (in a virtual reality game) with Clark Kent, who is also struggling with his identity as the not-yet-Superman. Both books are so much fun - not just for young adults!”

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. "Remember those years in our 20s when everyone was getting married?  Now that we’re ::cough cough:: not exactly in our 20s anymore, and probably going to 2nd and 3rd weddings, read this book to relive the drama of weddings and singlehood and friendship when you’re just starting out adult life.  It’s sweet and well written".

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. "White House staffers and young politicos in Washington.  Social climbing, troubled marriages, fake-ass behavior …. we’ve all been through it, so why not read fiction about it?  I was expecting to roll my eyes at this, but I actually really liked it.  She’s a talented young writer".

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. "Anthony is an elderly man whose fiancee died the day he lost a medallion she had given him.  Since that day decades ago, he spent his life collecting and cataloging lost things, but he never finds a way to reunite people with their things.  When he dies, he leaves his idyllic but haunted house to his assistant, who is charged with returning items to their owners. A charming, romantic ghost-story that will put you in the mood for tea and biscuits!"

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. "This was the best novel I read in 2016.  It's a page turner that tells the story of a 1960s forgery by a young art historian in NYC and then transports you to 1600 Holland and the story of the artist whose painting was forged. Both are women and their lives parallel and connect in surprising ways."

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. "A historical novel based on real women during WWII.  An American socialite, a Polish girl in a Nazi-camp, and the Nazi doctor who run experiments.  The writing is excellent, and the story of these 'rabbit girls' of the camp is both horrifying and uplifting".

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge. "Have you ever woken up to find yourself thigh-deep in the cold water of the San Francisco bay, not knowing who you are?  Yeah, me either.  But it happened to the protagonist of this story.  What trauma caused her to upend her life, lose her mind and memory?  You’ll have to read it to find out.  Hint: the trauma was not seeing that #TBT picture of Britney and Justin in matching ‘90s denim at the AMAs".