Book Bites: Dirtbags, Bodyguards, Unicorns, and More

Summer's ticking away, which reminds us to ask: How are your Summer Reading bingo cards shaping up? You have about a week left to squeeze in another square or two — or three or four if you're going for blackout. Lucky for you, our staff picks have all kinds of bingo potential. We've got a funny picture book, provocative mysteries, beach reads, a first-rate memoir, and more — dig in! 

Ages 2-5

A Unicorn on a Unicycle by Lynda Graham-Barber; illustrated by Jordan Wray

Ride along with a unicorn on a unicycle as he counts the wheels on various vehicles traveling down the street. Adorable and colorful illustrations are sure to captivate little learners. How many wheels can you see in the animal jamboree?
— Barb

READ because this is a wheely fun book that old and new readers will love.
PASS if you are caught up thinking about how a unicorn would be able to manage the dismount. 
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Ages 10 & Up

Thirst by Varsha Bajaj

Minni lives in the poorest part of Mumbai, where clean water is scarce and education is not always valued. Minni finds herself struggling with two challenges: her brother witnesses the water mafia siphoning water away from their neighborhood and Minni's mother falls ill. Minni must take over Ma's job and responsibilities around the house while balancing them with her own education — and she wants to find a way to expose those who are stealing water. This is a fast-moving story that will engross readers and make them think.
— Cathy

READ because this is a well-done reminder that for some, access to water is not guarantee. 
PASS if you don't see the value in reading about lives that are different than your own.
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Ages 13-18

Accomplished by Amanda Quain

This is a YA modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice from Georgiana Darcy's perspective. She's returning to Pemberley Academy after The Incident last spring, when Wickham was selling Adderall from her dorm room. Of course, Georgie thought Wickham was in love with her and just wanted to spend all his time with her, but Wickham is Wickham. Georgie is determined to make her mark as a Darcy, so Fitz will finally be happy and will leave her alone. She plays trombone in the marching band and works to find her way back into the good graces of her section with the help of former friend turned drum major Avery. All of this is while Georgie is trying to determine who she is without Fitz or Wickham. It's a delightful read!

READ because it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of a hot summer afternoon, must be in want of a great new book.
PASS, for now, if you've been having nightmares about a Georgian-era Dakota Johnson look-alike. 
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Adult Fiction

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse

Detective Elin Warner returns in full force after The Sanatorium. When a body turns up at the Lumen retreat off the coast of England, Elin and her partner are dispatched to assess the situation. A group of sisters and their boyfriends are visiting the retreat as a getaway. Each has their own secret, each has their own agenda for the vacation. The one thing they didn't count on was finding Bea, who canceled the trip last minute, dead on the first morning. Elin finds herself immersed in the unsolved crimes of the island’s past in order to unravel those in the present. Can she figure things out before time runs out? A riveting read, fast-paced through the last line of the epilogue! 
— Christina

READ if you're looking for a good excuse to read a book in one sitting. 
PASS if you're waiting to read it on your next getaway with your sisters and their boyfriends (maybe read it before).
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The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Hannah Brooks does not look like she could flip you over her shoulder, but she could. She's a bodyguard who just got hired to protect superstar Jack Stapleton from a stalker. When Jack comes home to Texas after his mom is diagnosed with cancer, he doesn't want his family to know about the stalker and convinces Hannah to pretend to be his girlfriend. While this storyline may ring familiar, Katherine adds some surprises and plenty of banter to make this a funny, thoughtful, and truly joyous read.
— Cathy

READ because this is another absolute winner from our dear friend and neighbor Katherine Center.
PASS if you prefer hate-reading bad books to joy-reading good ones.
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The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

A number of people go missing over several years in Cutter's Pass, a small town in North Carolina. When the investigations fail to reveal answers, the residents of Cutter's Pass do their best to move on with their lives. Months after the most recent disappearance, one of the family members of a missing person shows up at the Passage Inn, instantly shocking Abby Lovett, one of the workers and a resident of 10 years. Abby does her best to help him with his questions, and her curiosity is sparked along with a desire to uncover what truly happened. One detail leads to another, unlocking many truths that others wished to bury. 
— Ayah

READ because you should know by now that Ayah's recommendations are always worth taking. 
PASS if the last Megan Miranda tricked you up until the very end and you no longer trust books of any kind.
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Adult Nonfiction

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald

In this series of essays, Isaac Fitzgerald examines his past and considers how his experiences have shaped him into the man he is today. Isaac’s voice is extraordinary. He tells these stories so beautifully and his perspective as well as his capacity for grace and understanding are true gifts. This memoir is full of love — as well as some gut punches — and was impossible to put down.
— Cathy

READ because Fitzgerald's writing is something we are all lucky to be able to read. 
PASS if you're itching to be excommunicated from the good graces of Cathy Berner. (Bad choice.)
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Shadowlands by Matthew Green

Historian Matthew Green has written a documentary of his research into several towns that are in ruins or that have vanished completely in Great Britain: one town that fell off a cliff, into the sea, one that was apparently vacated by the plague, another that was evacuated for military reasons then abandoned, and several others. As he plods on foot over many miles, he gives a running and highly entertaining narrative of the natural and political histories of the areas where the remains of the towns are located. Reading this is like watching a PBS documentary, his descriptions are good enough to transport you to the towns, to imagine the people who lived in them, and to get a really good sense of the passage of time and how the earth has changed over the centuries. Recommended to history buffs — especially those interested in ancient and medieval history.
— Alice

READ because come on! Vanished towns? The plague? Who wouldn't want to read about that?
PASS if you drive out to Galveston every weekend to throw tea into the gulf.
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