Blogs

Book Bites: Dickens, Death, and Cookies (Oh My!)

The air is crisp, the skies are clear, and the sweaters temporarily came out of storage. The fabulous fall weather this week has us bristling with anticipation for Halloween—and looking ahead to winter holidays, too. 

It’s the perfect time to curl up with a book. Whatever your mood this season, spooky or sweet, our staff is ready with great recommendations. Read on for a roundup of what we’ve been loving, or stop by the shop to chat about hundreds more. 

We're About to be Very, Very, Impossibly-Very Busy: Notes from Valerie's Messy Desk

On Saturday, Leland Melvin, astronaut and former NFL star, will keynote our annual Tweens Read festival. This festival has grown from a crazy idea introduced to me at our second TeenBookCon to a rollicking day where kids and authors join together in their love of books.

The fun doesn't stop there. Bluebonnet nominee Cassie Beasley (Circus Mirandus) visits the shop next Tuesday with her latest, Tumble & Blue. Wiley Cash, a dear friend of the shop, follows next Wednesday. Read his Q&A on our blog to learn why The Last Ballad is his most ambitious work yet. Next Saturday, don't miss Melanie Shankle of the Big Mama Blog. Stick around 'til 4 for a special launch party commemorating the promising debut of Houston author Liara Tamani.

Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis on the Magic of Middle Grade

You may not know it, but you know Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis. Meloy is the lead vocalist and guitarist for popular indie rock outfit The Decemberists, while Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator. (She also supplies illustrations for the band.) They live outside of Portland, Oregon, on a farmstead, with their two young sons and a proliferation of fruit trees.

Book Bites: The Wolf, The Vanderbeekers, and the Last Ballad Are Calling My Name

Another week, another batch of delicious reads. If you take a look at our Events Calendar, you’ll see that we’re entering our very-very-impossibly-very busy time. With so many events on the horizon, we’re even more excited to share some of these reviews with you, because the recommendation also comes with an opportunity to meet the author!

We can’t wait for you to read Wiley Cash’s The Last Ballad. Not only is Wiley a staff favorite, but he also considers this latest novel to be his most ambitious. Meet Wiley in the shop on Wednesday, October 25th, and prep for the event by reading the fantastic Q&A he did with us on our blog. Liara Tamani’s lovely debut, Calling My Name, hits shelves on 10/24. Likened to the work of Sandra Cisneros, this lyrical coming-of-age story should be at the top of your TBR. Meet Liara and hear more about her first novel at her launch party here in the shop on Saturday, October 28th! Don’t forget to read her insightful Q&A on our blog before the event.

Also, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse—it is hysterical.

Wiley Cash Is Right on Time

You may have noticed a certain word picking up steam in the book world over the last year: Timely. To some extent, new books are always timely. They, like all art, reflect the culture of the day. But as society collectively sits up and confronts difficult issues, we've enjoyed an unprecedented run of feminist booksdiverse books, and books of social and cultural importance. One of the best? The Last Ballad, by staff-favorite author Wiley Cash.

You may already know Wiley from a pair of best-sellers that have long held a special place on the Blue Willow shelves. If you haven't read his work, we think it's high time you start. But don't take it from us—we caught up with Wiley for a Q&A to celebrate the publication of The Last Ballad, and he told us why he considers this book his most ambitious yet. Read on, then stop by the store to pick up your copy. You'll have just enough time to read it before Wiley visits us on the 25th.

Meet Liara Tamani, An Exciting New Voice in YA Lit

Get used to hearing the name Liara Tamani. The Houston author is poised to grab her share of literary headlines when her debut novel, Calling My Name, is released later this month. It's a beautiful, thoughtful story about a young girl discovering her identity, and Tamani's prose ebbs and flows with the grace and subtlety of poetry. The book is already earning critical raves, netting comparisons to the work of Naomi Shihab Nye, Sandra Cisneros, and Sharon Creech, among others. 

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Liara for a Q&A. Read on to learn her thoughts on inspiration, diversity in teen lit, and how it felt to see her book's cover for the first time.

Book Bites: Bad Moods, Good Nights, and National Book Award Winners in the Ninth Hour

October, October! The favorite month of spooky souls, Anne of Green Gables, and, of course, readers. This month, some of the publishing industry's greatest titles are released—just in time for us to curl up under a fuzzy blanket, nab the nearest cat, and devour them.

This week, we’re excited to highlight a few upcoming titles that have our staff raving. Those of you who love Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) will be thrilled to know that one of her unpublished manuscripts is soon to be released, brought to life with the illustrations of Loren Long. On the adult side of things, Alice McDermott is racing back to your bedside table with The Ninth Hour, a tale of “practical Catholicism” that had our Alice “spellbound by the warmth and humanity of McDermott’s treatment of her characters.” Look, if Alice likes it, it’s really good.

Cheers to fall, friends, and happy reading!

The One and Only Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Award in 2013 for her beautiful book The One and Only Ivan, a runaway bestseller and staff favorite here at the shop. Even if you missed Ivan (we know a way you can fix that), chances are you've read her work. Along with her husband, Katherine created the Animorphs and Making Out series in the 1990s. She's also responsible for a variety of picture books, chapter books for young readers, and novels for middle grade and teen readers. 

Her latest story is Wishtree, and it comes out later this month. Wishtree is sure to be another favorite—it's a beautiful tale of nature and friendship from an unexpected point of view. To celebrate its publication, we caught up with Katherine for a quick Q&A. Read about her writing process and inspiration below, then circle September 27th on your calendar—that's when we're hosting Katherine in the shop for a discussion and book signing. 

Get Inspired With Jennifer Mathieu

Jennifer Mathieu is a dear, dear friend of the shop, and her new book, Moxie, is one of the best YA novels in a very strong year. (Not to brag, but we're totally in the acknowledgements page.) Moxie is the story of Viv Carter, a strong, intelligent young woman who is slowly emboldened to find—and use—her voice. It's fierce, it's feminist, and it won over Cathy, our events coordinator, who says it "perfectly captures small town Texas and girl empowerment." How cool is Moxie? Amy Poehler's production company optioned it long before it was even published. It's that cool.

We're thrilled to be hosting the official Moxie launch party at the end of the month. Before you join us for music, food, and conversation, read our Q&A with Jennifer below and check out her previous books. We can't wait to see you at the party.

Book Bites: A Dreadful Tale of Dinner, Fires, and Moxie... Like a Pig

Friends, we won't lie—Hurricane Harvey uprooted our everyday lives, and our entire staff has had a hard time getting back into reading after the storm. But all it takes is one great story to reintroduce yourself to the magic of books. We recommend eight such stories below, with at least one for every age group. Read on, read on.

Pages