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All posts by Mia Clement

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon – Rosa Brooks

Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret. Her experiences lead her to an urgent warning: When the boundaries around war disappear, we risk destroying America’s founding values and the laws and institutions we’ve built—and undermining the international rules and organizations that keep our world from sliding towards chaos. If Russia and China have recently grown bolder in their foreign adventures, it’s no accident; US precedents have paved the way for the increasingly unconstrained use of military power by states around the globe. Meanwhile, we continue to pile new tasks onto the military, making it increasingly ill-prepared for the threats America will face in the years to come.

Shining Sea – Anne Korkeakivi

Beginning in 1962 with a shocking loss, Shining Sea quickly pulls us into the lives of forty-three -year-old Michael Gannon’s widow and offspring. Brilliantly described and utterly alive on the page, the Gannon clan find themselves charting paths they never anticipated, for decades to come. Told with a cinematic sweep, Shining Sea transports us from World War II to the present day, crisscrossing from the beaches of Southern California to the Woodstock rock festival, from London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides, from the dry heat of Arizona to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts.

Epic, tender, and beautifully rendered, Shining Sea is the portrait of an American family-a profound depiction of the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, the making of myth, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but sometimes also to keep us afloat.

I Will Send Rain – Rae Meadows

Annie Bell can’t escape the dust. It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko – Scott Stambach

Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement.

Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.

She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.

Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living – Louise Miller

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

The Cauliflower – Nicola Barker

To the world, he is Sri Ramakrishna–godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru. To Rani Rashmoni, she of low caste and large inheritance, he is the brahmin fated to defy tradition. But to Hriday, his nephew and longtime caretaker, he is just Uncle–maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to sneak out to the forest at midnight to perform dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies and devotees with ulterior motives, but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulfur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.

Rather than puzzling the shards of history and legend together, Barker shatters the mirror again and rearranges the pieces. The result is a biographical novel viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly inventive and brilliantly comic, irreverent and mischievous, The Cauliflower delivers us into the divine playfulness of a twenty-first-century literary master.

The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible) – Rachel Starnes

When she fell in love with her brother’s best friend, Rachel Starnes had no idea she was about to repeat a painful family pattern—marrying a man who leaves regularly and for long stretches to work a dangerous job far from home. Through constant relocations, separations, and the crippling doubts of early parenthood, Starnes effortlessly weaves together strands from her past with the relentless pace of Navy life in a time of war. Searingly honest and emotionally unflinching—and at times laugh out loud funny—Starnes eloquently evokes the challenges she faces in trying to find and claim a sense of home while struggling to chart a new path and avoid passing on the same legacy to her two young sons.

At once a portrait of the devastating strains that military life puts on families and a meditation on what it means to be left behind, The War at Home is a brave portrait of a modern military family and the realities of separation, endurance, and love that overcomes.

Purity – Jonathan Franzen

Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother―her only family―is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she’ll ever have a normal life. It takes a seemingly chance encounter with two visitors from Germany to send Pip―and the reader―on a journey of discovery that ranges from Stasi-era East Berlin to a rainforest in Bolivia; and from the ancient war between the sexes to the present-day bewilderments of the Internet. Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder―the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.