by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This novel by first-time author Mary Ann Shaffer (who died earlier this year) and her niece, children's author Annie Barrows (Ivy and Bean), is a jewel. Told in an exchange of letters between Juliet Ashton, a London newspaper columnist, and members of a reading group that calls itself the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the book combines quirky and delightful characters with fascinating history, bringing alive the five-year occupation of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, by the Nazis during World War II. In 1946 Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a Guernsey farmer, who's found her name inside an old book. Their ensuing correspondence opens Juliet's eyes to the horrors of occupation: food shortages, slave labor, deportations to the concentration camps. The Society—started so its members would have an alibi if they were out past curfew—became far more: their reason to persevere. Eager to write about her new pals, Juliet heads for the island, little realizing that her life is about to be transformed. Poignant and keenly observed, Guernsey is a small masterpiece about love, war and the immeasurable sustenance to be found in good books and good friends.
by Jancee Dunn
REVIEWED BY CLARISSA CRUZ
Thirty-eight-year-old Lily is a New York City TV producer who finds herself moving back in with her parents in New Jersey after her husband of 15 years abruptly asks for a divorce. Back in her childhood home just in time for her 20th high school reunion, she starts feeling nostalgic for her carefree youth—particularly her brooding (and still devastatingly handsome) ex-boyfriend Christian. As the pair rekindle their romance, and Lily gleefully reverts to some of her teenage, slightly Mean Girls ways, she learns how much of the past still affects her present. Steeped in '80s-era references (Rick Springfield cassettes, Duran Duran posters and Anais Anais perfume, anyone?), the flashback elements of Lily's tale are breezy, reliably tacky fun. But unexpected moments of tenderness involving her parents, friends and firecracker octogenarian boss Vi ("I know people hook up these days," she tells Lily. "I'm not a fossil.") give the story heart.
A BIPARTISAN WINNER
One thing the presidential candidates have in common: They've both cited For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway's classic novel about the Spanish Civil War, as an all-time favorite. What's up with that? "It's a book about war and a love story," says Hemingway scholar Susan Beegel, "and it's about giving one's life for a greater cause. That would appeal to people who've chosen lives of service." No matter what party they happen to be in. Notes Beegel: "It's also one of Fidel Castro's favorite books."
PRESCRIPTION FOR A SUPERIOR EXISTENCE
by Josh Emmons
A novel about an average guy who loses his job and finds religion—the creepy California-cult kind.
THE TIME OF MY LIFE
edited by Rob Spillman
PEOPLE's Oliver Jones and 16 other writers look back on "the heartbreak, hormones and debauchery of the prom."
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society