Book Bites: Buy the Dozen

Books are a bit like donuts, don't you think? Sure, you could stop in for one or two. But it's way more fun to just go for a dozen and share them with friends. (Or just keep them all for yourself! No judgments here.) So this week, we're bringing you a longer-than-usual roundup of a twelve of our favorite new releases, featuring titles for readers of all ages and interests. Only one thing to do: Dig in!

Ages 4-8

Twenty Questions by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Christian Robinson

Mac Barnett's signature language and Christian Robinson's signature illustrations combine into a spectacular picture book that is a perfect fit for homes, libraries, classrooms — anywhere there's a reader with an imagination. Bravo!
— Cathy

READ because this is another great collaboration from two of our very favorite picture book creators.
PASS if you can't stand question-asking and imagination.
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Ages 8-12

You Are Here: Connecting Flights ed. by Ellen Oh

Twelve short stories, each written by a different Asian American/Pacific Islander author and each about the racist micro and macro aggressions experienced by AAPI kids at the same Chicago airport during a weather delay. The stories all connect in various ways as well. Well-written, and a good reminder that we can treat people better and that AAPI is not a monolith — we are diverse and we are American.
— Aerie

READ because this beautiful collection features writing by Linda Sue Park, Erin Entrada Kelly, Christina Soontornvat, and more of your favorite authors!
PASS this along to a young reader in your life — they'll love it.
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Ages 14 & Up

A Long Stretch of Bad Days by Mindy McGinnis

In small town Henley, the high school guidance counselor drank booze better than he kept track of student credits. As a result, privileged Lydia and badly behaved Bristal miss an important credit that allows them to graduate. To make up the credit, the girls host a podcast about a stretch of bad days following a tornado that struck Henley many years ago… which is coincidentally the timeframe for an unsolved murder. Lydia and Bristal uncover details about the case and reveal many other secrets that the town's history holds. Fast paced and twisty — will keep you turning pages till the end!
— Liz

READ if you loved Sadie or A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
PASS if you're too busy practicing your ~podcast voice~.
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The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

Maddie and her father are trying to move forward after her mother's death. They continue to travel the ren faire circuit and arrive at her mom's favorite stop, only to learn that ownership has changed hands and nothing feels the same. Maddie finds herself roped into acting as the Princess of the Faire and becoming friends with Arthur, the son of the new owners. Maddie and Arthur spend their off days on road trips to obscure destinations, learning about themselves and each other. A charming, body-positive novel about moving through grief and accepting yourself and those around you. I loved it!
— Cathy

READ because this is almost like Dumplin' at Ren Fest, which is to say, fantastic.
PASS if you have a sudden uncontrollable urge to dress in chain mail and eat a turkey leg.
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Adult Fiction

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Captivating, heartbreaking, and endearing. This is a present-day homage to Little Women with four sisters who are very unique and who love each other fiercely. Through the course of the story events will splinter their relationships, and learning how they cope (or refuse to) makes this story one that you cannot put down. Amazing characters, true love, family dysfunction… this is a true masterpiece that should not be missed!
— Christina

READ because Christina loved this book even before Oprah did.
PASS if "true masterpiece" somehow isn't moving the needle for you. (Your readometer might be broken.)
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The Dig by Anne Burt

Fresh out of Harvard Law School, Toni King has just landed a job with a firm in Minneapolis. Just as she is given her first assignment, she is called home to Thebes, Minnesota, to help deal with a family matter. But family is a fraught word for Toni. As a four-year old, she and her older brother were brought to the U.S as recently orphaned Bosnians, the violence she experienced in 1993 Sarajevo still haunting her dreams. One of the men who brought her to Thebes owns a large construction firm that is threatening to demolish a Somali immigrant community center, and Toni’s brother has been caught up in the immigrants’ cause, much to the chagrin of the man who raised him. As Toni tries to find her now-missing brother, she risks her new job when she uncovers some shady business dealings as well as some family secrets. Along with the fast-paced suspense (the action takes place in just one day) this is also a family drama that includes aspects of small town politics and social issues with elements of culture clash. Smart writing with a credible protagonist.
— Alice

READ Alice's recommendations. It's great life advice.
PASS if you only take bad life advice.
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Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

Amidst the bombing of London during WWII, Bea is sent to live in Boston by parents that didn't agree on the decision to send her away. She was scared and lonely until the Gregory family picked her to live with them. What a delight they were — happy, healthy and not a worry in the world with two sons that treated her like a sister right away. They spent the summers on their magical island in Maine where Bea learned to swim and came into her own. After five years, the war is finally over, and Bea is summoned home to a mom who was angry that Bea left — and angry at the world, it seems. Bea puts away the memories of her magical time in America until a tragedy calls her back to the childhood she cherished with the people that made her feel like one of their own. How can Bea live a normal life when she is torn between the love of two countries and two families? What a beautifully written debut. 
— Christina

READ because this engrossing debut is picking up great reviews and blurbs from star authors like Ann Napolitano, Ann Packer, and Meg Wolitzer.
PASS if this will only make you want to travel to Maine and London this summer. 
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Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Vera Wong's life is lonely because she lacks customers at her teahouse and hardly hears from her own son. Regardless, she sticks to her daily routine and doesn't let anyone or anything stop her, including the discovery of a dead body in her teahouse. Lacking faith in the cops, Vera steals a piece of evidence and is determined to investigate herself. A cozy mystery that will bring out some laughs along the way. Recommended. 
— Ayah

READ because funny-mystery-starring-an-aging-amateur-detective is objectively one of the best genres ever.
PASS if you simply can't stand unsolicited advice of any kind.
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Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

The three adult children of the Stockton family have grown up with a carefully-guarded old money New York pedigree, but as they begin to have families of their own, they start to realize how strange their WASP-y ways are to the rest of the world. Darley is married with two kids, Cord is married with no kids to outsider Sasha, and Georgiana is the youngest and single. All three are struggling with how their lives have been defined by money, and it takes several big life events (including Sasha finding out they have been calling her “Golddigger” behind her back) for a true reckoning to begin. With a frank conversation on what the money held by the 1% could do in this world, but somehow keeping the tone of a fun-to-read family saga, this well-written debut is a page-turner.
— Aerie

READ because this timely romp is a perfect beach-read-with-a-little-extra-oomph.
PASS if you thought this was a cookbook.
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American Mermaid by Julia Langbein

Sylvia is a fictional mermaid who becomes human in Penelope's first novel. Smart, but troubled, Sylvia is confined to a wheelchair and unaware of her peculiar start in life. Author Penelope, a slightly off-kilter high school teacher, jets off to LA when a studio wants to turn her book into a movie. Totally out of her element, Penelope networks with the wacky Hollywood crowd trying to rescue Sylvia from being transformed into a sexy character in an action movie and away from the mystical eco-warrior that she created. Told in a dual storyline, Slyvia's story and Penelope's life swirl together like sea water and sand as themes of sexuality, environment, and deceit are cleverly explored. Pick this one for an imaginative, uniquely bizarre and funny read. I loved it!
— Liz

READ because novels about novels are always irresistible.
PASS if "witty and thoughtful" just isn't for you.
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Adult Nonfiction

The Dirty Tricks Department by John Lisle

Anyone who has read the many good true stories about 20th century spies has gotten a taste of what John Lisle outlines in great detail in this well-researched history of the secret warfare methods employed by the OSS in WWII and later by the CIA. He describes how the Research and Development Branch of the newly formed OSS came to be. The R&D Branch was led by Stanley Lovell, a chemist and inventor who supervised the creation of such items as exploding flour, incendiary devices attached to bats, explosives in lipstick and the hundreds of other successful and unsuccessful "dirty tricks" to outwit the enemy. Included are lots of anecdotes about how these devices were used during the war and how the CIA, successor to the OSS, developed more dirty tricks after WWII ended. 
— Alice

READ because this is entertaining, dark, and thoroughly engrossing.
PASS if you just think that globe-trotting espionage stories are boring.
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The Patriarchs by Angela Saini

How did men come to dominate women around the world today? Was it always thus? Do any true matrilineal societies exist today? To what extent do patriarchies exist because women buy into them? How do political and economic systems foster patriarchies? And what, if anything, can be done to counteract the worst offenses of patriarchies?

In engaging prose, the author examines the nature and etiology of patriarchal control and the different ways it manifests throughout time and different societies. She asks questions of historians, anthropologists and sociologists whose research has considered cultures both ancient and modern, and she gives us a good summary of the nature of patriarchies. As in any system where inequalities persist, those who are fighting against oppression will benefit from understanding what they are up against.
— Alice

READ because this absorbing and informative book is a must-read for anyone interested in fighting for equality.
PASS if you're allergic to truth-telling and incisive research.
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