Book Bites: Beach Reads, Ocean (Vuong), & More

In a reading rut? We’ve all been there. You pick up a book, get a few chapters in, and just… run out of steam. We’re here to say that we’ve discovered the cure: More books! This week, we have a literary twist on the old hair-of-the-dog concept—seven books that are guaranteed to break you out of even the toughest reading rut and get you back into bookish bliss. So, what will it be? Fantasy? Romance? Interesting family dynamics? Read our recommendations below and take your pick. (Doctor’s orders.)


Ages 14 & Up

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Emma doesn't have many memories of her mother, who died years ago, but she remembers a summer spent on a lake in North Carolina. Just before her senior year in high school, she's unexpectedly sent back to that lake and begins to reconnect with her mother's side of the family. Here, she goes by Saylor, her middle name that her mother called her. She learns about her mother's history and what it's like to be a lake kid—someone who lives year-round at a vacation spot. Sarah Dessen has created a lovely novel that deeply touches so many experiences of being a teen as well as the connections that bind together friends and family. For grades 8 and up.
—Cathy

READ the new Sarah Dessen? Sure, twist our arms.
PASS the popcorn—three of Sarah’s books are being adapted by Netflix!
Order your copy on our website. 

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery of Thorns is about a girl named Elisabeth Scriverver. Elisabeth becomes tangled up in magic that has been going on for hundreds of years, and is about to be ended by one heir until Elisabeth gets in the way, with her new found friend Nathaniel (a sorcerer), and some very unlikely help from someone else…. I loved this book and believe countless others will, too, and highly recommend this book for your shelves.
—Young Reader Review

READ because this is a great magical romp set in a library—think shades of Buffy and Harry Potter.
PASS if anything set in a library is off-limits for you.
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Fiction

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Between teaching high school so she can repay her debts to her wealthy uncle and being constantly reminded that her younger cousin has rejected dozens of marriage proposal, Ayesha Shamsi has a lot on her plate. Although she'd like to find someone, she does not want an arranged marriage. She meets Khalid, who is smart and handsome but way too conservative for her, which is fine, until he becomes engaged to her cousin. It's a modern day Pride and Prejudice set in Muslim Toronto, full of wonderful (and a few odious) characters and a happily-ever-after.
—Cathy

READ because, come on, you know you’re always down for a new P&P adaptation.
PASS if you thought this was the zombie one.
Order your copy on our website. 

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

It's a letter, it's a long poem, it's a memoir, but mostly it's the story of a young writer named Little Dog trying to make a cohesive whole of his own life using poetic snapshots of his memories of growing up with a mother and grandmother who emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when Little Dog was two years old. The vivid snapshots reveal the economic and social challenges the family faced and the emotional strains of mental illness and broken marriages. The Vietnam War experiences are still inside the two women: "When does a war end? When does your name mean only your name and not all that was left behind?" Even so, there is an underlying love and compassion that enrich the family's bonds and keep Little Dog close to his family's history. "Care and love, for us, are pronounced clearest through service," he notes. Yet he is pulled in two directions, as most Third Culture Kids are, as he focuses on issues of identity—racial, cultural, linguistic, and sexual. This is a beautifully written novel that clearly and lyrically describes the realities of immigrant experiences. Recommended.
—Alice

READ because this is the book on everyone’s lips right now—and rightfully so.
PASS if you want to miss a beautiful piece of life-changing lit.
Order your copy on our website. 

How to Not Die Alone by Richard Roper

Andrew is a public health worker who searches for next of kin to those who die alone. It is a lonely, thankless job. His workmates believe he goes home to his wife and kids every night, but that was just a big misunderstanding and is now a lie that Andrew has to carry on—when in fact he actually has no wife or kids and goes home to his flat alone. Peggy is a new hire who comes into Andrew’s office, and life, like a breath of fresh air. Because of Peggy, Andrew experiences things he never thought he would. Andrew has to make a decision—does he tell her the truth and risk losing Peggy, or does he continue to carry on his lie and risk not finding out if there is anything beyond this friendship?
—Joy

READ for the great characters and Eleanor Oliphant vibes.
PASS if you thought this was a book about movies written by Roger Ebert’s old pal. (That’s Roeper with an e.)
Order your copy on our website. 

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

This is the story of Mariastella Fortuna the second, called Stella, formerly of Ievoli, a mountain village in Calabria, Italy, and lately of Connecticut, in the United States of America. Her life stretched over more than a century, and during that life she endured much bad luck and hardship. This is the story of how she never died. A richly told story of family and transgressions as ancient and twisted as the olive branch that could heal them.
—Lesley

READ because Lesley can write one hell of an enticing review, no? 
PASS if you were looking for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Or The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. No Evelyns here!
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Nonfiction—Humor

How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase

Here is your cocktail party conversation! A fun compilation of all the crazy federal laws that are still on the books that outlines how all of us probably qualify as criminals. From mail crimes to animal crimes to pretty much anything you might do on federal property, be prepared to shake your head and laugh out loud.
—Valerie

READ to discover just how much time you should be serving.
PASS if you’ve already decided to go on the lam. (We ship!)
Order your copy on our website.