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Heather

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2015)

fishinatreeA fascinating and enlightening story, Fish in a Tree follows a sixth grade girl who always struggled in school, but never could understand why until a persistent, caring teacher finally helps diagnose her with dyslexia. The author herself experienced a similar childhood to Ally, which gives so much depth of perspective to the character's struggle with an inability to read and write. Once diagnosed, Ally begins to discover through perseverance that a learning disability does not define who she is or her intelligence.

I only knew the basic symptoms of dyslexia prior to reading Fish in a Tree; however, I now feel a whole new appreciation for those who struggle with this and similar learning disorders on a daily basis because of Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s thoughtful and personal testimony incorporated into her novel.

Fish in a Tree is among the 2019 Bluestem Award nominees for the State of Illinois, designed for students in grades 3-5.
Jez

everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too by Jomny Sun (2017)

Based on Jomny Sun’s popular tweets, this delightfully simple and precious graphic novel follows a young “aliebn,” Jomny, as he first visits Earth and learns about life on our planet, including making friends, making art, and being yourself. Everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too is a soothing balm for the tired soul, sure to get you to smile and immediately force the book into a friend’s hands.
Mary S.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (2016)

Arthur Pepper has lived a simple, routine, lonely life since his wife, Miriam, passed away a year ago. His children are busy with their own lives, and he is grieving the love of his life. While searching through a wardrobe, Arthur finds his wife’s beautiful gold charm bracelet with a collection of charms. His curiosity leads him from York, England, to Bath, London, and Paris tracking the origin of the bracelet and the significance of each of the charms. His journey takes him out of his comfort zone and leads to adventures; new experiences, such as coming face to face with a tiger; and meeting different people. He discovers a side of his wife of forty years that he never knew and learns about himself in the process. Arthur’s interactions with his nosy widowed neighbor, Bernadette, and her teenage son, Nathan, enhance the story.

Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a heartwarming, poignant, and amusing story.

 
Joan

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith (2017)

Paul Stuart is a food/wine writer with a deadline. His focus is diverted when his live-in girlfriend of four years runs off with her trainer. Escaping to Tuscany sounds like a solution for both problems. The story starts like a madcap adventure in Italy, but develops into a study of humanity with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

Once his transportation issue is resolved, thus the title of the book, Paul is free to explore the beautiful countryside and research local food and wine. His route is definitely not a typical tourist package. Paul has command of the Italian language and quickly makes friends. He serves as a confidant to a few local men and even lends a helping hand in a longtime conflict. During the course of his stay, he entertains three ladies (two from his past and a new love interest). His working vacation may be just what was needed for his personal and professional dilemmas.

Alexander McCall Smith is well known for his long running series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and others, but the standalone novel My Italian Bulldozer stands out as a feel good read.
Hugh

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith (2012)

cloudsA short novel with a good ending but one that makes the reader wonder who actually stole the valuable painting from the wall of the Scottish country gentleman. Isabel is a philosopher and maybe an amateur detective with almost a compulsion to help others with their ethical and love life problems. She has lots of ideas and is always ready to listen attentively but with great care not to offend those seeking her help. At home she has little Charley, husband Jamie, and a sometimes troublesome housekeeper. With all this, it’s hard to see how she has time to edit the philosophy journal she owns or to help out at her niece’s restaurant. Isabel is a good friend to have as she seems to relish clouds passing by. If you enjoy The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, there is a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith featuring Isabel Dalhousie.
Joan

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene (2015)

seafrontReaders can relax and forget all their troubles with The Seafront Tearoom – the perfect vacation read any time of year. Make no mistake, the three female protagonists' lives are not trouble free. Charlie (Charlotte), Kat, and Seraphine are all working through major changes in their personal and professional lives. Luckily, their lives converge in a tea room in Scarborough and are never quite the same. Even Letty, the charming owner of The Seafront Tearoom, has secrets from her past that surface during the course of the story.

Vanessa Greene allows readers to meander through the English countryside sipping tea and nibbling on sweet cakes as the characters resolve their conflicts and live happily ever after. Please don't allow that last statement to be a spoiler. The Seafront Tearoom is a relaxing journey complete with the characters' favorite recipes to try with a cup of tea at the end of the book.
Hugh

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014)

manoveTo Ove, everything was black or white and controlled by routine, but Sonja gave color to his life. Now he just wants to be with her again. In the first few chapters, the reader sees Ove’s grumpy nature and then his sadness as he tries to deal with this great change that has occurred. Ove’s efforts are continuously interrupted by neighbors who want help, backing a trailer or regulating the radiators in their homes. Most of the time Ove is annoyed by their requests and shows it but he seems to have a good heart and always helps. Soon the young girls next door brings him cookies and call him Grandpa. With a little persuasion, even the neighborhood stray cat takes up with Ove.

Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove is a sad but funny short novel that can be a delight to both young and old. And now you can also enjoy another novel by Backman: Britt-Marie Was Here was released in May.
Hugh

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)

storiedlifeThis is a story for those who love books and book people. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry presents a sad but delightful series of stories through A. J’s life as he loses his wife and a valued possession, but then gains the responsibility of a 2-year-old child and a new life. Poignant, sad, and funny events keep the reader (or listener) engaged for the full journey. Gabrielle Zevin’s novel was a New York Times bestseller, a #1 Indie Next pick, and a #1 LibraryReads selection.
IPPL Staff

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
Eleanor Brown’s likable debut has lots of family drama, a touch of Shakespeare, and a happy ending!

Dr. James Andreas, a Shakespeare scholar, has three daughters. When his wife is a diagnosed with breast cancer, he calls them home with a quotation from Titus Andronicus: "Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains." And so they return, all in their thirties, to the small college town where they were raised.

The three Andreas sisters – “dependable” Rosalind, “sexy” Bianca, “carefree” Cordelia –speaking with one voice, are the novel's first-person narrative…an unusual perspective but it works well here. With a touch of comedy the three sisters together tell the whole story, tracing each one's worries and indiscretions, yet still creating a unity, even in moments of strident confrontation. Or as the author says: "We love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." Ultimately it is the story of young women becoming “adults.”

And even though the happy endings are a little predictable, it is a good read. Indeed…all’s well that ends well!
IPPL Staff

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith (2009)
After losing her husband, La (short for Lavender) goes to live in a small house in the English countryside owned by her in-laws. The time is the late 1930s and when WWII begins, La occupies herself by helping a local farmer with his chickens and leading an amateur orchestra made up of locals and men from the local airbase.

This is a quiet story about a woman who lives a simple life yet touches the lives of many.


Visit the author's website and read a review from the Washington Post.
IPPL Staff

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth (2005)
Life with Strings Attached, Minnie Lamberth's first novel, is the winner of the Paraclete Press Award for Fiction. It is graced with strong writing and a decidedly southern charm. Set in Evergreen, Alabama, in the summer of 1972 seven-year-old Hannah Hayes is concerned with keeping her beagle Pumpkin free from the bad influences of the neighbor's dog and convincing the adults in her life that she is called to be her community's first girl preacher. Told with humor and insight this story is not sentimental, but is an authentic tale of growing up. It held me right up to the end!

Read reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.
IPPL Staff

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (2009)
A light but very entertaining book for a beach or trip read, especially if you've been or are going to Italy. Valentine, raised in a true Italian family, lives with her aging grandmother as they try to keep their family business (a high-end Italian shoe designer/ manufacturer) up and running. Love enters in for both Valentine and grandma and the ending has a twist. Chick lit, maybe, but I truly enjoyed it!

Read an excerpt and review at Bookreporter.com and visit the author's website.
Denise

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans (2006)
This book touched my heart and soul in so many ways. The characters were so believable and relatable. I couldn’t put it down, despite that fact that I was overcome with emotion at various times throughout the book. It was one of those books that kept me thinking about the characters long after I finished it. The book is narrated by a young man. Each chapter opens with a brief entry from his diary. A few of my favorite entries are:
  • “My mother used to tell me that angels walk the earth disguised as people. Tonight I’m a believer.”
  • “Sometimes you can’t go home again.”
  • “I have learned firsthand that one well-placed truth can counter a lifetime of ignorance.”
  • “Usually life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in adversity.”
Although this is considered a Christmas book, it certainly can be read at any time of the year.

Read a review at Bookreporter.com, visit the author's website and check out the reading guide. You may also read an excerpt from the book.
IPPL Staff

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart (2008)
When all of his regular customers are going bald or deserting him for a snazzy new barber in the next town, Guillaume Ladoucette gives up barbering for matchmaking. Trying to pair up his friends and neighbors, though, turns out to be harder than Guillaume imagined. Especially when he can't even manage his own love life. A charming story set in a magical town and chock full of good French food and eccentrics.

Read an interview with the author and explore the publisher's reading guide for this title.
IPPL Staff

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)
At the end of WWII, writer Juliet Ashton has just published a collection of the humorous columns she wrote about London during the war. Now she is at loose ends trying to find her next project. Through a happy accident, a used book with her name in it lands on the Channel Island of Guernsey and into the hands of Dawsey Adams. Through letters to Dawsey and others on Guernsey, Juliet learns about what occupation under the Germans was like and finds the inspiration for her next book.

The story is told entirely in letters between Juliet and her many friends and is very charming. Some might feel it is a bit too charming and even sentimental, but anyone willing to enter into the time and place of the book and who enjoys quirky eccentrics will find a satisfying read. The book is reminiscent of Helen Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road for its depiction of England right after WWII and its discussion of literature through letters from Hanff and the friends she made at a bookshop in England. For another story of the Channel Islands under German occupation, see the British miniseries Island at War.
Visit the book's website and read reviews of the book at Amazon.com.