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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LC

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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MC

Agent Running in the Field

John Le Carre, 2019

Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carre is a political spy thriller.  Set in London in 2018, we follow a twenty-six year old solitary figure who, in a desperate attempt to resist the political turbulence swirling around him, makes connections that will take him down a dangerous path. The plot and characterization is thrilling as ever. The way Le Carre writes about our times proves, once again, he is the greatest chronicler of our age  It has all the twists and turns a spy novel should have.  I really enjoyed this book.

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SG

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. 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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BB

The Most Fun We Ever Had

Claire Lombardo, 2019

The Sorensons—Marilyn and David—are still very much in love after 40 years of marriage and four girls.  Each of their daughters has issues. The eldest is rootless after burying her wealthy husband. The second is trying to win the best wife and mother medal, except she has a very deep, dark secret.  The third is a professor who is not elated to find herself pregnant by a man she is not sure she loves. And, Grace, the baby is working menial jobs while telling her parents she is attending graduate school. The sibling rivalry is intense, especially between the two oldest.  Lombardo paints a picture of a loving but neurotic family. The dialogue is hilarious with a vicious edge. 
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In Pieces

Sally Field, 2018

This memoir about the multi award winning actress Sally Field was a thought provoking and very interesting read.  Her deeply complicated life is described in great detail that leaves you in awe of what she endured in her childhood, career and personal life.  I picked up this book on a recommendation from a friend and I was not disappointed. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Sally Field and her work.

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LC

Dutch House

Ann Patchett, 2019

Even though they are separated in age by seven years, Maeve and Danny Conroy are extraordinaryly close.  Abandoned by their mother and raised by an indifferent father, the children depend on each other.  The Conroys live in a beautiful mansion they love and call The Dutch House, named after the former owners. Out of the blue, their father remarries Andrea, a selfish step-mother who has two young daughters.  “The Dutch House” is also a novel about affluence — about having it, losing it and then getting some of it back. After their father’s sudden death, Andrea evicts Maeve and Danny from the house.  They spend the rest of the book mourning the loss of the house and of most of their money.   The thing that makes this book extraordinary is how much you care about the siblings and The Dutch House, which becomes another character in this fascinating novel.

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