Book Bites: Dog Days

Is it too early to call these blazing afternoons the "dog days" of summer? The stars may say no, but we're going to go ahead and do it anyway. Fortunately, we know the very best way to beat the heat: Stay inside with a great new book, like one of the recent releases we're featuring below. Only one is actually about a dog. But there's another one about bones, which we think should count for something. And all of them are perfect summer reads. Enjoy!

Ages 4-8

Building by Henry Cole

Building beautifully captures the life cycle of a beaver family through the seasons with soft black and white sketches and watercolor accents. While it is interesting to see how the beaver family lives and makes its home, it is a celebration to see how many creatures benefit from the ecosystem that the beavers build. 
— Kimberly

READ because this is a gorgeous read that introduces young readers to life science.
PASS if you just can't trust a book with illustrations this gorgeous.
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Two Dogs by​​ Ian Falconer

Dachshund brothers Perry (the worrier) and Augie (the rowdy one) are home alone during the day and get into plenty of mischief. A welcome return to picture books from Ian Falconer, author and illustrator of our beloved Olivia.
— Cathy

READ because this one is doggone good. You'll be barking for more!
PASS if you think that someone named Falconer should exculsively write about birds. 
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Ages 8-12

The Fort by Gordon Korman

A group of four boys plus one new boy find an underground fort in the woods that becomes a secret happy place for adventure and also a refuge from difficult challenges. A great story of friendship and adventure while overcoming significant challenges.
— Jennifer G.

READ if you love classic friendship stories like Hello, Universe or Stand By Me.
PASS if you are terrible at keeping secrets and reading a book about a secret fort will only stress you out.
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Ages 13 & Up

A Year to the Day by Robin Benway

Leo (short for Eleonora) narrates this story of grief over losing her sister Nina in a drunk driver accident exactly one year ago. We follow Leo's story along with Nina's boyfriend East, going backwards in time. Leo doesn't remember the accident but East does (in alarming detail). It is a story of how families cope with grief and acceptance. There were moments of Thirteen Reasons Why going through my mind because we are going backward instead of forward.
— Valerie

READ because you loved I’ll Give You the Sun and Every Day
PASS if you don’t think that art should ever make you feel something. 
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Adult Fiction

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

Dele Weds Destiny is a poignant and heart-touching tale about the trials and tribulations that come with friendship. Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab met at university and became friends for life. Over the years they went their separate ways, creating their own lives for themselves. Thirty years after their graduation, which was the last time they were all together in one place, Funmi sends out the invitations for her daughter's wedding. Once again the women are reunited and readers are thrust into the crazy, thrilling weekend in Nigeria surrounding Destiny's wedding. 

This book will have you captivated from the beginning and make you believe you are living the story right alongside the characters within it. Highly recommended. 
— Olivia

READ because this buzzy debut has captivated everyone from Tayari Jones to Jami Attenberg.
PASS if you'd rather not read about dynamic and interesting characters. 
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The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Two women, Kat and Meg Williams, have lived their lives wanting vengeance for a wrong done to them in the past. The problem is, one wants to get even with the other. Meg Williams grew up in Venice, living in a home with her mom that had been in her family for years. The home was "stolen" from them in a shady business deal with a real estate developer who her mom dated. Since then, Meg has waited for an opportunity to get even with the man that took her family home. Some say she is a con artist, and one might think she is a modern day Robin Hood. 

Kat was working at the LA Times when a big story broke. She happened to answer the phone and get a tip about the man in question. Going to a bar to chat up a potential source could be the big break she longs for—only this time she ends up in his bed the next day with no clothes on, remembering nothing. This incident has plagued her for years and she blames the person that called the tip in: Meg Williams. 

This powerful story is told from each character's perspective in subsequent chapters. I felt myself pulling for the perceived "bad guy" at times. How far is too far for revenge? Such a great read that had me on the edge of my seat until the last page.
— Christina

READ because you need the next big thriller in your hands now!
PASS if you know you're just going to skip to the last page and spoil the ending. (Though we think it would still be worth the journey.)
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Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard

A work of historical fiction about Jacqueline Bouvier reflecting on her early years as a single professional woman and her courtship with JFK. The story is relayed in first person as a memoir of Lem Billings, the (closeted) gay man who was a close friend and go-between, filled with genuine fondness and a strong sense of remorse for all that happened and for all she might have become if she had not become Mrs. Kennedy. It was easy to become swept up in the eloquent, empathetic retelling. Peeking behind the scenes, even with a fictional view, at the early years of such a famous woman stirred great sympathy for the forces that quickly pulled her under — or at least along with — a current beyond her control.
— Jennifer K.

READ because this is a fresh and bittersweet take on one of history's most fascinating figures. 
PASS if you dislike fresh, witty, and empathetic storytelling.
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The Beach Trap by Ali Brady

Kat and Blake meet at summer camp at age 12 and become fast friends. Kat lost her mom and lives with her grandparents. Blake is from an upper-crust family in Atlanta who has it all — except a happy, loving relationship with one another. When Kat has to leave camp suddenly, Blake recognizes the man who picks her up as her own father. 

Fifteen years later, the girls have had no contact since that last day of camp. But when their dad suddenly passes away, they are left a family beach house. So many past emotions rise to the surface — hurt, desertion, lack of trust — as they try to fix up the house together. Both girls need each other, but whether they can trust each other is a different story. Such a precious family story of loss and love and how important family is, no matter what. 
— Christina

READ if you loved The Parent Trap when you were younger (either version) and can't get enough of HGTV now.
PASS if this is only going to remind you of everything you need to fix up around the house.
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The Gatekeeper by James Byrne

This hilarious techno thriller will keep you enthralled (and laughing) throughout the entire book. The gatekeeper is Dez Limerick. He's a mix of English, Irish, and Scot with a dry sense of humor and an attraction to trouble. The novel opens with a true James Bond cliff-hanging scene. Then Dez leaves "the business” to become bass guitarist on the club scene in the US. But trouble finds him at a posh hotel and he is thrown into the international high stakes of big business, the military, and a group of neo-Nazi haters who want to start a new nation in central California. Dez can do anything (and he does EVERYTHING) to thwart the plot. Highly recommended, especially as an audiobook!
— Valerie

READ if you’re looking for something you’ll want to tear through in one sitting.
PASS if you like to gatekeep great books from everyone — including yourself. 
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Adult Nonfiction

The Monster's Bones by David K. Randall

Subtitled The Discovery of T. Rex and How It Shook Our World, this book is really a biography of Barnum Brown (1873-1963) — his life and times. As a young boy growing up on a Kansas farm, Brown had an insatiable curiosity about things he found in the ground. Though he was not a great student, he eventually got the attention of the director of the newly established American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who offered him a job. He spent the rest of his life honing his ability to understand how the layers of the earth formed over the past millions of years, traveling around the world during the "Bone Wars," the intense competition among museums to discover the biggest dinosaur fossil in existence. Oh, and he was the first to find a complete T. Rex skeleton — the one that is now in the New York museum.

READ because honestly, does anyone ever really outgrow their dinosaur phase?
PASS if you're still so far into your dinosaur phase that you're out in the backyard with a shovel and thus too dirty to read.
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