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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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by Kelle Hampton |



Hampton, a photographer and blogger with a handsome regional-sales-manager husband and an adorable toddler daughter, was living what she calls “a perfect life”-until Jan. 22, 2010, the day her second daughter, Nella, was born. “I knew the minute I saw her that she had Down syndrome,” writes Hampton, who was 31 at the time and had foregone prenatal testing, believing there was no reason to worry. “I held her and cried … I held her and looked at her like she wasn’t my baby and tried to take it in … she locked eyes with mine and stared … bore holes into my soul.”

Bloom is the story of Nella’s first year. Told in serviceable prose that too often falls back on cliche, it’s a touching tale nonetheless, lifted by an abundance of color photos of the irresistible Nella and her sister Lainey. A constitutionally positive person with a close circle of family and friends, Hampton makes a convincing argument that grief and disappointment can be transformed into compassion and joy-“an opportunity to bloom where we are planted.”

Paris in Love

by Eloisa James |



After fighting cancer, James took a sabbatical from her university job as a professor and Shakespeare scholar to spend a year in Paris with her husband and two kids. In this delightful charm-bracelet of a memoir, James, also the author of 20 romance novels, offers quirky, often laugh-out-loud funny snapshots of her adventures as an American suddenly immersed in all things French-food, clothes, joie de vivre. Her portrait of her family is equally lighthearted, and her reference guide is indispensable.

Hand Me Down

by Melanie Thorne |



Here’s a mother every reader will love to hate: When her husband, a convicted sex offender, is released from prison, Linda must choose between him and her daughters, since his parole mandates that he not have unsupervised contact with teen girls. So she sends Liz, 14, off to an uncle and Liz’s little sister Jaime back to her alcoholic dad. Soon the girls realize the only people they can depend on are each other. A sad, compelling read.