Book Bites: Dig Into Fiction

We’ve reached the part of the Houston summer where all we want to do is stay inside and read—pandemic or not. So drag your comfiest chair next to your biggest A/C vent, put your feet up, and blow through a stack of our favorite new fiction. Below, we recommend a new picture book featuring a beloved character, a couple of supernatural YA reads picked by members of our Teen Advisory Board, and a half-dozen new novels that range from fizzy to searing. Dig in!

Ages 4-8

We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope T. Rex returns! It's time for the school talent show, but Penelope isn’t sure if she's good enough to play the rock and roll she loves. Her family and friends remind her that she can be anything she wants to be. Clever illustrations make this another picture book for all to enjoy.
— Cathy

READ if you, like all people, love dinosaurs and rocking out.
PASS if you’re scared of getting eaten by a T. Rex. (Don't worry. Penelope got that out of her system in the first book.)
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 13 & Up

The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

August Pfeiffer is a queer teenager living in the vampire-ridden town of Fulton Heights, and, up until recently, his biggest threat was an upcoming algebra quiz. However, he soon discovers that he is at the epicenter of a centuries-old curse, caught between four clans all vying for his trust. Oh, and top of that, everyone he cares about may or may not be trying to kill him.

Packed with adventure, unexpected twists, and lots of sarcasm, The Fell of Dark is a thrilling and unexpected take on vampires that’s bound to keep readers hooked up until the very end. Despite the abundance of supernatural activity, Roehrig crafts a protagonist that many teenagers would see themselves reflected in as he grapples with his new reality.  In this fast-paced novel, the author manages to shed light on prominent issues that still plague our world today, all while maintaining an irreverent sense of humor. 
— Veronica P., Teen Advisory Board Member

READ if you love adventures, curses, and vampires... or if you’ve read and enjoyed Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
PASS if you don’t like it when people say negative things about algebra.
Order your copy on our website.

A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens

One day, while at a grocer in their hometown of North Coast, California, best friends Dan and Liss discover a mysterious book known as the “Black Book” in the Free Stuff bin outside of the store. The book only has one page with writing on it, containing a spell to turn anyone into Naive Witches. They think magic is all fun and games until a fateful day in junior year when a spell from the book goes wrong. Liss’s boyfriend, Johnny, is kidnapped by a demon, and Dan and Liss are driven apart by their guilt. Due to this, Dan makes a new best friend, Alexa, who moved to North Coast from L.A. with her aunt Lorelei following a story about a mysterious cult known as Black Grass.

A Wicked Magic is an amazing fantasy-thriller that seamlessly blends fantasy with reality, creating a believable universe with well-developed characters. All of the novel’s protagonists are different from each other; each has a distinct personality, personal problems, and motivations, providing us with three well-rounded characters who grow and change as the story progresses. The switching perspectives of the novel help to add to the suspense, as well as create new plotlines that each play into the other. Overall, A Wicked Magic is an excellent read that is highly recommended to readers who want to mix up their thriller selections.
— Ava G., Teen Advisory Board Member

READ because you’ve been missing a modern thriller with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vibes.
PASS if you think magic is boring and you’d never use it if given the opportunity.
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Fiction

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Bea Schumacher is an up-and-coming plus-size fashion blogger who becomes the next star of The Main Squeeze (a Bachelorette-like reality show) after blasting the show for its lack of racial and body type diversity. Hung up on her forever crush, Ray, and rightfully skeptical of the contestants’ motives, Bea navigates the filming as she decides whether or not she can, and should, fall in love. Thoroughly charming! 
— Cathy

READ if you like watching The Bachelorette (for the love stories or for the drama).
PASS if you don’t like relatable, smart writing.
Order your copy on our website. 

Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

Connected short stories follow multiple generations of Cherokee women. Life can be hard, but love and blood run deep. Lula turns to the oppressive Holiness Church after her husband drains their bank account and leaves her to raise three daughters. The youngest, Justine, is date raped at fifteen and is forced to give up any future to raise her daughter. She runs away from Oklahoma to Bonita, Texas, where her somewhat-husband grew up and his parents remain. Remey, the equally strong-minded daughter grows up and away. Natural and human-caused disasters abound. What shines through it all is a sense of love between mothers and daughters.
— Valerie

READ because this is a beautiful book full of Cherokee history and culture.
PASS if you don’t like reading about women (sorry to tell you, but we may not turn out to be your favorite bookshop).
Order your copy on our website. 

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

In this modern retelling of A Room With a View, nineteen-year-old American-Taiwanese heiress Lucy Tang Churchill is attending the lavish wedding of her friend Isabel on the island of Capri under the supervision of her Aunt Charlotte. Lucie falls for Chinese-Australian surfer George Zao knowing that her WASPy Churchill family will never approve of the relationship. Fast-forward five years and Lucie is a successful art consultant in New York City engaged to billionaire Cecil Pike. When George Zao reappears and rents a nearby house in East Hampton, Lucie must decide for herself what she really wants.
— Barb

READ because you know you want to read another fantastic book by the author of Crazy Rich Asians.
PASS if you don’t like fun books by authors who were shaped by living in Houston. (True story—after his family moved from Singapore, Kevin graduated from Clear Lake High School.)
Order your copy on our website. 

Inheritors by Asako Serizawa

This debut novel is a collection of interrelated stories about members of five generations of a Japanese family living in Japan and the United States. The stories jump back and forth in time—from Masyuki's visit to California in 1914 to his great-grandson Erin in Boston, 120 years later, developing a digital world that tries to predict impacts of climate change. World War II and its devastating effects on members of the family and the post-war reconstruction of Japanese society are illustrated in the stories of a young suicide submarine pilot and an adopted son who finds the missing brother his parents had lost touch within the 1945 fire bombings of Tokyo. One picks up pieces of the characters’ life stories as one reads—kind of like looking at a family photo album. At the end, you’ll want to turn back to the beginning to re-read the earlier stories to find the connections that you missed. Brilliant writing keenly examines history, memory, and belonging as patterns in the human story. 
— Alice

READ if you like brilliant writing from multiple perspectives and styles.
PASS if you don’t like immersive, multigenerational family sagas.
Order your copy on our website. 

The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson

Edie Pritchard's life is seemingly set in front of her. We live with her for forty years in small Montana towns. She goes from young newlywed with a husband who cannot understand her to an abusive second marriage to a stint as the grandmother of a lost teenage girl. Watson mines this northeast corner of Montana in a way that stirs your heart. A solid drama that plays out through long road trips and misplaced desire.
— Valerie

READ if you like reading about triumphant and powerful women figuring out their place in the world.
PASS if you were once menaced by a moose, and have sworn off of Montana for the rest of your life.
Order your copy on our website. 

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

In Arcand, Canada—a “halfbreed” town where the people are part First Nation, part Settler—Joan’s husband, Victor, has vanished. Eleven months later, the search parties have long been called off. But Joan is still searching.

One morning, after a night commiserating with her cousin, still drunk, Joan wanders into a Mission tent and sees Victor. Only he tells her he isn’t Victor. The police and an ambulance are called, and when the hospital releases Joah, the Mission has gone. So begins the quest of Joan and her nephew, Zeus, to recover Victor and remind him who he is. Drawing on the legend of the werewolf-like Rogarou, Empire of the Wild tells the story of a love that will not give up, and the story of the intersection of mining rights and First Nation communities.
— Caroline R.

READ because this is a bold and brilliant indigenous story, full of mystery and passion.
PASS if you have sworn off books. What are you doing on our website?
Order your copy on our website.