Roddy Doyle, 2020

Are there not times when you just can’t move away from a couple who are having an interesting discussion.  Eavesdropping on the subway can be so entertaining that you remember the conversation for days.  Love, the new title by Irish writer, Roddy Doyle, might be the ticket for you.  The entire book is a series of conversations between two long-time friends: Joe and Davy.  Davy has returned to Dublin from England to care for his dying father.  His pub meetings with Joe are well-oiled but philosophic, particularly on the topic of love.  The book has an Irish accent and is seriously funny. Perhaps, you will find a bit of Joyce in it, since the interior dialogue never ends.

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Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

Amaryllis Fox,  2019

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox is a fascinating look into the life of a young woman and her time spent training and working in the CIA as an undercover agent.  This memoir tells the story of Fox’s passion for her work in a post 9/11 world.  She describes the sacrifices she made when serving in the CIA and the toll it takes on your personal life.  Fox does a great job in telling her story from childhood to adulthood and the many challenges she faced both personally and professionally.

I loved this book because I learned something new about a subject I knew nothing about and yet I connected with Fox on a human level at the same time.  This would be a great read for anyone interested in the workings of the CIA from a very personal view.

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Normal People

Sally Rooney,  2019
There is nothing normal or ordinary about the wonderful description of a youthful, complicated romance between Marianne and Connell, two teenagers living in rural Ireland. The two have both financial and status differences.  Connell is being raised by a single mother, who works as a housekeeper for Marianne’s family.  Marianne is the privileged daughter with wealthy parents. Marianne is very bright but not outgoing and girls at school think she is strange.  On the other hand, Connell is “one of the guys”, an athlete, liked by all.  What is the strange connection that pulls these two together—both in high school and later at Trinity College Dublin.  Sally Rooney in her quiet prose reverses the roles of the characters.  Marianne thrives and makes friends.  Connell is home sick and misses his football friends.  The character development is unique.  The reader gets into the head of these complicated young people and gets to understand why they are so attracted to each other. 

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The Giver of Stars

Jojo Moyes, 2019

Set in Depression -era America , this is an historical novel about five extraordinary women and their journey through the mountains of Kentucky to set up a visiting library to rural inhabitants.   Rich in history, the book is based on the WPA’s Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky program which ran from 1935-1943.  With well-developed characters and a strong sense of place, the novel speaks of women's friendships and the hard lives of Appalachian women.  Although they face constant danger, these women are committed to their jobs.  They refuse to be cowed by men or by convention.

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The Collector's Apprentice

B. A. Shapiro, 2018

A tale of shifting identities and intrigue set in the 1920’s between Paris and Philadelphia.  19 year old Paulien Mertens has been accused of helping her fiancĂ© steal her family’s fortune and her father’s art collection.  She Is determined to recover her father’s art, prove her innocence and exact revenge.  This is a fascinating story, loosely built on the history of the Barnes Foundation, now in Philadelphia, with strange twists throughout.

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