Blogs

Book Bites: Alice-Approved

Spring is right around the corner, our events calendar is cookin’, and waves of great new books are hitting our shelves every week. Today, we’ve prepared a seven-course literary feast. First up is a wonderful new picture book that’s full of empowering themes. After that, we move on to a heartwarming middle grade novel by one of our favorite authors. Our dear globe-trotting Alice, whom we miss very much, weighs in from her Vietnam vacation with a whopping four novel recommendations. No matter what you like to read, one of them is sure to catch your eye. Finally, we close things out with a new cookbook devoted to one of our favorite family-and-friends traditions: Sunday dinner. So dig in!

TeenBookCon Author Ngozi Ukazu on Hockey, CHECK, PLEASE!, and What's Next

Friends, have we told y'all about our favorite hockey books? They're part of a graphic novel series called Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, and they're just the best. The story follows Eric Bittle, a gay former figure skater and amateur pâtissier who plays on the hockey team at the fictional Samwell University. It's a funny, charming series—you'll love getting to know Bitty's teammates, watching his vlogs, and cheering for him as he comes into his own. 

The second and final volume, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones comes out on April 7. If you're not coming to TeenBookCon on April 4, you can pre-order a signed, personalized copy on our website by April 2, and upload your receipt online before April 6—while supplies last, the publisher will send you a poster featuring Bitty's pregame playlist! 

We're so excited to be hosting Ngozi as part of our eleventh annual TeenBookCon festival, where we'll be selling copies of both Check, Please! books for Ngozi to sign. (Attendees, buy your book at the event! You’ll even have a chance to sign up to receive that same exclusive pre-order swag.) You can register for the festival here, then check out the full author lineup to see who else is coming. In the meantime, tide yourselves over with our exclusive Q&A with Ngozi!

Book Bites: Perfectly Perfect Picks

Friends, it’s time to clear some space on your bookshelves. This week, we’ve got a Book Bites classic on our hands—seven great new titles, covering all ages, each one of them beloved by at least one (and usually more!) members of our staff. In the mood for a pitch-perfect picture book? We can show you two. Catch a case of middle grade mania? The wonderful Sara Pennypacker has written just the book for you. Do you stan YA? We’ve got a fabulous Houston-set YA love story that Cathy has been excited about for ten months. And if none of that suits your mood, how about a trio of new novels that mark that start of breezy spring reading season? Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Read on!

Bookworm Author Sydney Smith on His Beautiful Book, SMALL IN THE CITY

Friends, we'd love to tell you about Small in the City, a wonderful picture book by the talented illustrator (and now author) Sydney Smith. At first glance, the premise seems simple enough: A child navigates a city in winter and offers the reader advice about which streets to walk down and which places to avoid. But pay close attention, and you'll begin to realize that the child is speaking to someone in particular. There's a poignant narrative twist towards the end, and the whole thing is full of gorgeous, expressive art. In short, it's a very special book.

We're thrilled that Sydney is coming to Houston for our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1st, alongside eleven other wonderful authors and illustrators of picture books and books for emerging readers. Oh, and hundreds of eager young readers and their families! It's going to be a great morning celebrating literacy in the greater Houston area. You can pre-register for the festival now, or just show up on the day of. Either way, be sure to check out our exclusive Q&A with Sydney! 

Book Bites: Bookworm Beckons!

In just a couple of weeks, we’re taking our show on the road and heading to Jersey Village High School for our annual Bookworm Festival for emerging readers. It’s been so rewarding to watch the festival grow over the years—and equally rewarding to immerse ourselves in the always-delightful world of the picture book. This week, we’re featuring a pair of efforts by Bookworm authors in our list of recent favorites. Check the full author lineup on the festival website to see who else will be in attendance, then come join us on February 1! It’s going to be a wonderful morning.

Of course, we’ve been reading plenty of other books, too—including something new by one of our favorite YA authors and a powerful novel. So whether you’re here for picture books, novels, or something in between, read on!

Bookworm Author Vanessa Brantley-Newton on Girlhood, Read-Alouds, and JUST LIKE ME

It's no secret that we love a good picture book. We dedicate half of our store to kid lit, and the staff almost always has a new favorite making the rounds from bookseller to bookseller. Lately, we haven't been able to stop talking about Just Like Me, written and illustrated by the wonderful Vanessa Brantley-Newton. It's a gorgeous book, with a unique concept: Instead of a traditional narrative, the book consists of a series of poems describing girls of all kinds, each matched to a vibrant illustration. It's uplifting and inclusive, and it will have readers eagerly turning the pages to find themselves—and their friends—within.

We're so excited that Vanessa is coming to Houston for our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1st, where she'll be joined by eleven other terrific authors and illustrators... and hundreds upon hundreds of eager young readers. It's going to be a great morning full of author panels and signing lines. You can pre-register for the festival now—early registration isn't required, but it helps us figure out seating and other logistics. Then, to pass the time leading up to the big day, dive into our exclusive Q&A with Vanessa!

Book Bites: A New Year of Reading

As the holiday season comes to a close and our events calendar starts to fill back up, we’re delighted to welcome you to another year full of books, author signings, and conversation among friends. There’s nothing quite like turning the page on a new year of reading—you know that you’re bound to find a few titles that will rank among your forever-favorites, but you have no idea what they’ll be. That’s where we come in. Below, you’ll find some of our stand-out favorites from the first month of 2020—from tender picture books to wonderful new novels, with a real show-stopper of a memoir thrown in for good measure. Read on!

Kate Murphy on Algorithms, Loneliness, and the Importance of Listening

In her last newsletter of 2019, Blue Willow girlboss Valerie Koehler passed along seasonal wishes for time well-spent with friends, family, food, and laughter. But also with silence. Valerie wrote, "with silence comes a greater appreciation for the people around us." 

It may seem an odd choice for this time of year, but it's something that's been on our minds a lot lately—ever since we finished You're Not Listening, by Houston author Kate Murphy. It's an enlightening read, and it grapples with some of the most serious communication questions we're facing today. Questions like this: How is that, in a world where digital technology makes it easier than ever to "connect," so many people are growing lonelier, less tolerant, and more isolated? We're so excited to be hosting the author here at the shop on January 6 to celebrate the book's release. We hope you'll join us for what we know will be a wonderful evening. In the meantime, check out this exclusive Q&A between Kate and Valerie.

Book Bites: Teen Choice

YA lit is where it’s happening, friends. Have you noticed? Here at the shop, we pride ourselves on our teen section, and on bringing some of the best YA writers in the game to our annual TeenBookCon festival each spring. Of course, we couldn’t do any of it without a community of thoughtful, engaged young readers. We’re so grateful to everyone who has joined our Teen and Young Adult Reviewer Program, where we collect reviews from readers ages thirteen to twenty-four to help us understand which books y’all are excited to read, and which authors we should bring to town. Today, we’re featuring a selection of those reviews, in our first-ever “teen choice” reviews roundup! Read on.

(Pssst. Want in on the reviewing action? Participating in our teen reviewer program is easy. All you have to do is submit reviews of books you love through this form. At the end of every month, we'll draw the name of a random reviewer to win a $20 store gift card. Older than 24? Well, you don’t qualify for this program, but we’d still love to hear from you—stop by and chat books with us!)

The Best Books of 2019

2019 was a great one for new books. (Yes, we say that every year. So what? It's always true.) From fantastic debuts to satisfying series-cappers, there were hundreds upon hundreds of great books for any kind of reader. Here, we've chosen thirty of our absolute favorites from the year. 

Feel free to browse through all thirty titles, from breezy picture books all the way through to a 944-page history of our great state. Alternatively, use the links below to jump straight to the section of your choice. Be sure to read the author Q&As, where applicable—it's such a treat to hear more from the people who create such splendid stories. Finally, we'd love for you to come and visit us in the shop sometime soon—we’re here to help you shop for the holidays, and we're eager to talk about each of the books on our list.

Happy reading, friends.

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