Book Bites: Dogs, Dragons, and Other Delights

This week, we’re getting the shop ready for a (soft, quiet, socially distant) reopening. We’ve been busy clearing space on the floor, cleaning and disinfecting, and setting up some protocols for safe and responsible browsing. And of course we’ve also been reading. The pleasure of a good book has been such a comfort over these last few months. Below, we highlight ten recent favorites that are on our shelves right now, waiting to see you in the store or on our porch for pickup sometime soon.

Ages 4-8

Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Maple is an important part of the Parker family—the beloved pet. But when so many people say she looks like a wolf, she begins to think she is. When the front gate is left ajar, Maple runs to the woods to see if she is indeed a wolf. But nothing is as fun as being with her family. She uses her dog intuition to find her way home to her pack!

READ if you love Wolfie the Bunny or Red: A Crayon’s Story.
PASS if you’re a wolf. Wolves can’t read!
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

Zeus, Dog of Chaos by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Zeus is a service dog assigned to Madden, a middle school student with diabetes. Madden just wants to stay under the radar, but Zeus makes that tough. Readers will laugh out loud and root for Zeus as he tries to be a good dog amidst the chaos of middle school!

READ because this is funny and sweet, and dogs are the best.
PASS if you don’t like funny, sweet dog books. We are no longer friends with you.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 13 & Up

Burn by Patrick Ness

"The dragon was late." So begins this wonderful novel by Patrick Ness in which a farmer hires a dragon to clear a field for planting (paying him in gold, of course!) It soon transpires that the dragon has an ulterior motive besides the gold. An assassin from a mysterious dragon-worshiping cult, following a prophecy, is on his way, believing that the farmer's daughter will prevent the end of the world and must be stopped at all costs!

READ because Patrick Ness knows how to mix, match, and push the boundaries of different genres like no one else.
PASS if you don’t mind missing out on a truly singular book.
Order your copy on our website.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London who goes to college and can't find a place to fit in, until he discovers The Drag Society. This story, told in poetry, is full of stunning language and the joy of finding your place in the world.

READ if you love Elizabeth Acevedo. The authors are good friends, and Dean’s verse is just as compelling.
PASS if you’ve already read it—it’s been out in the UK for a while.
Order your copy on our website.

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani

Carli and Rex meet on a basketball court in Texas and there's immediately a spark. Both of them are destined for basketball greatness but first they need to navigate high school and their families, both of which are full of secrets and complications. Liara's second novel is a well done examination of family, love and basketball. We've all seen these characters in schools and in our neighborhoods.

READ if you liked With the Fire On High, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, or The Sun Is Also a Star.
PASS the ball—we’re open!
Pre-Order a signed, personalized copy by June 4th and we’ll send you a bunch of exclusive swag.
Attend our virtual event with the author on June 12th!
Read a Q&A with Liara on our blog.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tavia and her sister, Effie, are struggling with being themselves in a world where some people are born as mythological beings, like Sirens, Eloko and Gargoyles. Tavia is a Siren, a being that is feared because her Siren voice can be used to control others. In addition, she is Black, adding an additional layer of silencing. She lives in hiding and fear and frequently resorts to sign language when she cannot speak for fear of revealing her Siren voice. Effie is a Ren Faire performer and only feels herself when swimming or being Euphemia the Mer, her mermaid alter ego. At school she hates when attention turns to her and clams up, unable to speak. She is also troubled by secrets in her past, including her absent father. Tavia and Effie are everything to each other, even though they are sisters by circumstance rather than birth, and are able to truly talk to each other. With this support they learn to find and accept their voice and their true selves. The narrator alternates from one sister to the other throughout the book and each chapter has a unique voice and feel. Through a mix of reality and metaphor Bethany C. Morrow is able to tackle, without preaching, issues concerning Black women's voices being silenced.
—Caroline R.

READ this engaging modern fantasy if you love The Belles or Shadowshaper
PASS if you read gritty realism and nothing else. 
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society is set primarily in Chawton, a village in Hampshire, England, where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. World War II has ended, and the status of the estate is dicey. The novel follows the lives of an eclectic group of characters whose mutual love for Jane Austen draws them together in a quest to save her artifacts and family home. This is an easy summer read that will appeal to anyone who loves Jane Austen. There are lots of fun references to Austen’s books, especially Pride and Prejudice and Emma

READ for the Chilbury Ladies' Choir and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society vibes. And for the Jane Austen vibes, obviously.
PASS if you can’t stand Jane Austen. (Pass into the next county over, that is.)
Order your copy on our website.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is an intriguing story, part family saga, part social commentary, about twin sisters whose lives diverged into two very different directions. Desiree and Stella grew up in Mallard, Louisiana, a place that didn't show up on any map and a community that in the 1960s was racist in a peculiar way: the population was almost exclusively very light-skinned African Americans, many of whom could pass for white. Fourteen years before the story begins, Desiree and Stella suddenly left home together to find work in New Orleans. Shortly afterwards, Stella disappeared without a trace. Desiree married, had a child, and in 1968 decided to return to Mallard to her mother's house to escape an abusive husband. Skipping ahead ten years to 1978, we meet Stella, who has also married and had a child, and now lives in California in an exclusively white upscale neighborhood where not even her husband knows about her African American blood. In a coincidence that the author makes seem believable, the twins' daughters meet, and Stella's secret is in danger of being exposed. Bennett's characters are well-developed and provide a clearly-drawn portrait of race, gender, and the ties that hold families and relationships together. 

READ because you’ve been waiting for Brit Bennett’s next book ever since you finished The Mothers.
PASS if you haven’t read The Mothers! Do that immediately, then read this one next.
Order your copy on our website.

Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman

In Erdogan’s Istanbul, a young American woman and her Turkish husband, a real estate mogul, become inextricably wrapped up in and trapped by a convoluted symbiotic relationship with American government interests. By marrying Murat, Catherine successfully escaped her parents’ domination, but now she is considering leaving her husband to return to the U.S., an action that will hurt Murat’s reputation as a major player in the construction business and compromise the relationship between Murat and the U.S. intelligence officers who have been using him as a conduit of information from the Turkish government. But although political interests lurk in the background, this is really a well-told story about relationships and the effects of forces that divide people and those that bring them together in compromise and quid pro quos. National Book Award finalist (in 2017 for Dark at The Crossing) Ackerman has positioned himself at the crossroads of cultures to write about these forces with acute insight. As I read, I kept thinking of Graham Greene, writing at another time and about other places, but about many of the same issues.

READ because this is a thoughtful page-turner you won’t soon forget.
PASS if you prefer slow-moving, boring books about nothing.
Order your copy on our website.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

A debut novel about contemporary India that manages to evoke the complexity of the forces that are shaking the country’s social structure. In fast-paced prose, the author tells of three people whose lives intersect around a court case.  Jivan, a teenage girl from the city’s slums, is falsely accused of throwing a bomb at a train. Called to testify are her high school gym teacher, PT Sir, a man of conflicting morals, who is interested in getting into politics, and Lovely, a transgender woman who has dreams of becoming an actress and to whom Jivan was teaching English. As Jivan languishes in prison, PT Sir and Lovely concentrate on their own selfish interests, and there is a palpable sense of foreboding that made me want to yell at the two of them to help Jivan before it’s too late! 

READ because this is a thoughtful page-turner you won’t soon forget.
PASS if you prefer slow-moving, boring books about nothing.
Order your copy on our website.