Book Bites: Bonanza!

Folks, it’s a bumper crop of great new books this week, starting with a beautiful picture book by an acclaimed Caldecott medalist. Five novels made the cut, including a twisty, turny tale that should have plenty of crossover appeal into the young adult market. From there it’s on to literary fiction, a period piece, a thriller, a family drama… suffice it to say that you’ll find something on this list that you can love. Finally, take a turn into nonfiction, where we have a pair of tremendous books whose titles sound synonymous—but whose subjects couldn’t be more different. What will it be, friends? Read on!

Ages 2-5

Hope by Matthew Cordell

Two lions celebrate the birth of their grandchild and share their hopes for the future. The perfect amount of sentiment and a perfect book for new grandparents from Caldecott-winner Cordell!

READ this companion to Cordell’s Wish and Dream for a sweet story about love, family, and dreams.
PASS if you think love, family, and dreams aren't quite what they're cracked up to be.
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Fiction

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant… for the fourth time. She has no living child. As the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she is expected to produce an heir.  When Fleetwood finds a letter addressed to her husband that he has kept secret from her, she discovers that the doctor who delivered her third stillborn child does not expect her to survive another pregnancy. This sends Fleetwood into a panic to find a midwife who can help her deliver a healthy baby and prove the doctor wrong. While on a walk in the woods, she comes upon Alice Gray, a midwife caught up in a witchcraft scandal sweeping their village. Despite the controversy, Fleetwood insists that Alice become her midwife, and trouble ensues. Through many twists and turns, Fleetwood and Alice set out to survive, with all of the odds against them.

READ this 17th-century crossover thriller for its twists, turns, and interesting themes of gender and power.
PASS if your family was cursed by a witch 400 years ago.
Order your copy on our website. 

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

The stars of this show are a ten-year old boy and a six-year old girl who sit in the back seat of a car, on a road trip that has a premise about as practical as Kerouac’s. They play games of imagination and make witty comments, as the boy’s father, who plans to document the sounds left by the Apaches, and the girl’s mother, who plans to look for two little girls sent across the border from Mexico, try to come to terms with their differing agendas and the resulting impact on their marriage. Most of the book is a travelogue, narrated by the mother in achingly beautiful language, that chronicles their trip from Brooklyn to New Mexico via Baltimore, the Smoky Mountains, Graceland, and Ft. Sill. A later section is narrated by the ten-year old boy, who takes Polaroid photos along the route (included). Gorgeous writing, compassionate treatment of the story of unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally, and a wonderful relationship between step-siblings made this a novel I didn’t want to finish. Highly recommended.

READ this Indie Next List pick for its lyrical writing and remarkable characters.
PASS if you don’t mind missing one of the very best books of the year.
Order your copy on our website. 

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber

The Mormons of Junction, Utah are far away from the patriarchy of Joseph Smith. Most are living out lives of religious doubt. Deborah is awaiting her husband's return from his yearly trip as a wheelwright to all the outer lying towns. Her brother-in-law, Nels, is known for helping polygamist men who are on the lam from the new US laws outlawing their way of life. Told in two voices, this is a story of the struggle,  born of both land and religion. When a stranger shows up at Deborah's door, she reluctantly helps him. This opens the way for an even bigger struggle when the law comes looking. Great historical fiction.

READ this rugged piece of historical fiction if you liked Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, The 19th Wife, or True Sisters.
PASS if you hated all those books and think history is boring.
Order your copy on our website. 
Meet the author when she visits us on the 19th!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alicia is an up-and-coming artist living in a trendy part of London, married to the love of her life in a seemingly perfect marriage. Her husband, Gabriel, is found shot dead in the kitchen, and all signs lead to Alicia as the key suspect. Things quickly get complicated as Alicia refuses to speak and is committed to a mental asylum. Criminal psychotherapist Theo takes a professional interest in Alicia's case and in the masterpiece painting she created directly after the murder, Alcestis, named for Greek tragedy. Theo narrates his meticulous investigation of the crime complete with red herrings, blind alleys, and a brilliant, unexpected ending. This book is for any one who liked The Woman in the Window, Tana French, or Ruth Ware. 

READ because this instant bestseller is *the* thriller this year, like The Woman in the Window or The Girl on the Train before it.
PASS if you don’t mind missing out on umpteen book club discussions to come.
Order your copy on our website. 

American Pop by Snowden Wright

Following the invention of Pancola (the favorite soda pop of the south and then the world), the Forster family enjoys the top of society. But we learn quickly that all is not well. We start in 1939 at a boisterous New Year's Eve party at the Peabody in Memphis. Told in vignettes which jump in time, the novel describes the joys and sorrows of each family member. Houghton Forster and his strong-willed wife, Annabelle, have four children. All are doomed in some way. It is a generational saga stretching over a century of true American South history.

READ for a dose of drama, drinking, backstabbing, love, hate, and everything in between—it’s perfect southern fiction.
PASS if you are doomed in some way.
Order your copy on our website. 
Download the audiobook from our partner,—Valerie listened to this one on her morning runs!

Adult Nonfiction

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Jessica Hindman, a student violinist with more ambition than ability, can’t believe her luck when she lands a gig playing in a professional ensemble. But her perspective quickly shifts when her hesitant efforts to sight-read the music at her first show are drowned out by a CD blaring pre-recorded tracks over a massive set of speakers. Strapped for cash and clinging to her dream of professional musicianship, Hindman swallows her pride and hops into an RV, embarking on a dadaist road trip across the United States that sees her playing to dead microphones and enraptured audiences in shopping malls, on QVC, at craft fairs, and in some of the finest concert halls in the country. At the center of this scheme is a murky figure referred to only as The Composer, possessed of a manic grin, a salesman’s charm, and a prodigious gift for creating compositions that sound an awful lot like the soundtrack from Titanic

It’s a bizarre setup, and it yields some moments of sublime comedy. But the book’s real strength is its depth. Hindman is a vulnerable young woman when the events in the book take place, dealing with poverty, sexism, and the precarious balance between a young person’s dreams and reality. As the story moves along, she aims her gaze both inward and outward, writing about mental health, disillusionment, the importance of distinguishing the real from the fake, the startling difficulty in doing so, and how it all fits into post-9/11 America. Sounds Like Titanic is hilarious, heartbreaking, and altogether unique. Highly recommended.

READ this engrossing memoir because it’s absolutely hilarious, utterly bizarre, and seriously thought-provoking.
PASS if you’ll just get Céline Dion stuck in your head for weeks to come.
Order your copy on our website. 

Notes on a Shipwreck by Davide Enia; trans. by Antony Shugaar

In one of the most moving books I've read in a long time, the author, Sicilian journalist and playwright Enia, weaves together the strands of several stories. At the center is a description of the landings of refugees who  have arrived by boat on the little island of Lampedusa, midway between the Tunisian coast and Sicily. He recounts intensely emotional stories of Lampedusans who, for the past 22 years, have lived with the stresses of regular rescues at sea and providing for refugees once they land. As he tells the stories of the boats that barely make it and the refugees on boats that didn't make it, he also tells the story of his relationship with his father, a retired cardiologist, as they experience together the last illness of Uncle Beppo, his father's younger brother. Dealing with death—whether from a disease, or drowning in the Mediterranean, or in any other form—is always an emotional experience. Enia writes about it beautifully. Highly recommended.

READ this emotional story of refugees to better understand the world we’re living in today.
PASS if you’re all out of tissues.
Order your copy on our website.