Book Bites: End-of-Summer Favorites

Summer is winding down, school is back in session, and here at the shop we’re preparing for another busy fall publishing season. There are a lot of really exciting books coming our way in the next couple of months (Kate DiCamillo! Amor Towles! Jennifer Mathieu!), but we don’t want you to miss out on a few last summer releases that we think you’ll love. Here, we’ve collected our most recent favorites, ranging from a tender middle grade novel to the autobiography of a tennis legend. The ball’s in your court: Which books can we serve up for you this week?

Ages 8-12

Carry Me Home by Janet Fox

Lulu has a difficult situation that she must overcome. Her father has brought them from Texas to Montana after her mother died. They are living in their car and trying to make ends meet. Now her father has disappeared. Lulu, in middle school, must figure out how she and her younger sister can survive without meddling by well-meaning adults. Lulu wants to be in the school show. Many factors are weighing on her. In the end, the librarian (always the hero!) helps her to find her father and make sure that her sister is safe.

READ because this is a compassionate story that’s good for fans of Katherine Applegate or Rebecca Stead.

PASS if you’ve got an appetite for fantasy.

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Ages 14-18

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price 

Heliana, a beautiful floating city, is home to winged lion shapeshifters, Leonodai. When a disease starts to take children, the warriors are sent to find the cure in the human lands. The humans and Heliana have never seen peace. This group of elite warriors are the only hope to save the city. 

Rowan, soon to be a warrior, is someone who won’t wait around to be saved. When the lioness finds a shocking piece of information, she chooses to take fate in her own hands. It’s up to her now to save Heliana. I loved this book because it opened up a new fantasy world for me, and it was a great page turner. Something was happening every second, whether someone was fighting or falling in love. 
—Lillian, Teen Advisory Board

READ if you love the fantastical world-building of Leigh Bardugo or Jordan Ifueko.

PASS if you’re only going to spend the next month wishing you were a winged lion shapeshifter.

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How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao 

Jamie Ruan is the star of her own life. Top student at America's most prestigious private school, beautiful, influential, and loaded with money, she has everything anyone could ever wish for, and she knows it. Nancy Luo, on the other hand, from a Chinese immigrant family who struggled to make ends meet, has only the scholarship she won to Sinclair Prep. There were more than a couple times in her life that she wished her infuriatingly perfect friend dead. However, she didn't expect that wish to become reality, and what's more, be blamed for her death by a mysterious person named 'The Proctor.’ Somehow, The Proctor knows every single one of their secrets—secrets Nancy must keep from getting out, before it's too late.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be haunting; haunted by the past, secrets, and shadows, watched not just by law enforcers, but the very people you thought you could trust the most.
—Eunice, Teen Advisory Board

READ for the delicious Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl vibes.

PASS if you spook easily—you’ll be checking under your bed for months.

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Call Me Athena: Girl From Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith

This is the story of Mary, an American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants living in Detroit in the 1930s, who yearns for something more than the arranged marriage and conventional life her parents have in mind for her. Mary’s story is intertwined with a series of flashbacks to her mother’s earlier life in Northern France and her father’s earlier life in Greece, and how WWI eventually led them to each other. Written beautifully in verse, the language paints a vivid picture of the sights, sounds and tastes of life in depression era Detroit, Greece and  France in the early 1900s, and the battlefields and hospitals of WWI. The fact that the novel is loosely based on the author’s paternal grandmother makes it all the more wonderful. 

READ because this stands tall alongside our very favorite novels in verse.

PASS if you like being out of the loop, literature-wise.

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Adult Fiction

Between Tides by Angel Khoury

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this novel narrated by Blythe,  the first wife of Gilead Lodge. When his daughter from his "other" marriage shows up on Blythe's doorstep in Cape Cod during the height of WWII, she is looking for answers about her father. Blythe slowly tells the life trajectory of a troubled man. He searched for answers both in Massachusetts as well as Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks where his brother, killed in action during the Civil War, is buried. It's a novel of secrets, loves, hurts, and "moments of redemption".

READ for the irresistible combination of historical fiction and an Outer Banks setting.

PASS if you think history is worthless and beaches are boring.

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The Guide by Peter Heller

Another tautly-written thriller from Heller!  A young rancher's son from Colorado and recent graduate of Dartmouth, Jack has taken a job as a guide at a boutique fishing lodge. He's still grieving for the loss of his best friend (in Heller's previous novel, The River), and assumes that the job will consist of easy service to the wealthy clients who come for a few days of fishing. But his outdoorsman's sixth sense soon shows that all is not what it seems and not all visitors to the lodge are there just for the fishing. Jack strikes up a close relationship with the famous singer who is his client for a few days, and together they try to figure out what is behind the barbed wire surrounding the lodge and the mysterious adjacent property. Good descriptions of the environment and fishing techniques—hallmarks of Heller's writing.

READ because you know you’re in for a heart-pounding treat with Peter Heller.

PASS if the closest you want to come to a “wilderness thriller” is trying to ID a pretty butterfly.  

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Adult Nonfiction 

Eloquence of the Sardine by Bill François

This engaging piece of narrative nonfiction, originally published in Europe, blends the author’s personal story with captivating and accessible chunks of marine science—it’s this year’s The Book of Eels. But where that book focused solely on the European eel, this one takes its titular sardine as a springboard, using the unassuming species as a thread that loosely connects a range of colorful anecdotes and fascinating histories. It almost reads like a greatest hits album of incredible ocean facts. Upon finishing, you’re unlikely to look at your seafood platter in quite the same way—and may even be less motivated to order it at all. And you’ll have a new appreciation for the simple idea at the heart of the book: That the ocean is full of stories, if only we stop and listen.

READ because our oceans are as amazing as they are invaluable.

PASS if you think that 71% of the planet is worth ignoring.

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All In by Billie Jean King

Now in her late 70s, Billie Jean King looks back on her life in this candid chronicle of her experiences from childhood to superstar status to outspoken supporter of equality for women in sports. She really does go all in, including details of her physical and emotional struggles, her relationships, her sexuality, her many business ventures, and her campaigns for pay equity for women's professional sports. The writing style is conversational and personal, making this a fascinating story of a driven life and a good history of women's issues in the last half century. Recommended.

READ because this is a spirited and empowering book from an all-time great.

PASS if you were rooting for Bobby at the Astrodome all those years ago—there’s nothing we can do to help you.

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