Book Bites: Favorites Fresh and Familiar

Have you been doing a lot of reading lately? Books have been flying off of — and onto — our shelves the last two weeks. Our new arrivals section is packed with exciting titles from favorite authors as well as fresh new voices we can't wait for you to meet. There's something here for everyone, ages three on up. Which will you read first?

Ages 3-7

Betty and the Mysterious Visitor by Anne Twist; illustrated by Emily Sutton

Betty loves spending time with her grandma every summer, playing in the beautiful garden and making jam to sell in the market. One morning, Betty wakes up to find that someone or something has destroyed the garden. Once she discovers the culprit, Betty develops a plan to save her garden. Emily Sutton's gorgeous illustrations enhance this charming story about the joy that connections between family and nature can bring.
— Cathy

Read if you're in the mood for a sweet, garden-fresh story with lovely themes. 
Pass if you're looking for a rotten book with terrible themes. 
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Attend Our Virtual Event with the creators on September 10!

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh by Mo Willems

The Pigeon returns for the holidays and begs to drive Santa's sleigh. Will The Pigeon's dream come true? Mo Willems has created a wonderful addition to this series that will delight adults and kids alike.
— Cathy

Read because if you can't get excited about a new Pigeon book, you probably can't get excited about anything at all.
Pass if you think this is all an elaborate ruse by The Pigeon to distract you.
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Ages 8-12

The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass

Evan is trying to find out what happened when the town library burned down twenty years ago. But this delightful story starts with Mortimer the cat's narration. A free library is built on the town square with the few remaining books from the library, and Mortimer (or Goldie or any of the many names he goes by) refuses to leave the books. Evan and his good friend Rafe delve deep into town lore as they have to acknowledge that they are on the cusp of a transition of their own. The ghosts of the people who died in the fire stay on at the History House. Will Evan and Rafe figure out the mystery? Can the cat and the friendly mice help as well? 
— Valerie

Read because this is another winning effort from a great middle grade team.
Pass if the very idea of a lost library is too much for you to bear.
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The Spirit Glass by Roshani Chokshi

Corazon is a babaylan — a mortal with access to both the human and spiritual worlds, and she can't wait to turn 12 and find out what her magical gift of powers are. She lives with her companion anitos, a small blue gecko named Saso, under the care of her aloof and prickly Aunt Tina. Her parents died a few years before and she loves the weekly dinners with their ghosts, but she is forbidden from talking about them. She longs to find out what her gift is so that she can use her powers to return her parents to the land of the living and reunite with them. A visit to the midnight market in the spiritual world sets off a chain of events upsetting the balance between the worlds, and a vengeful spectre steals the magical key that allows Corazon to see her parents each week. She must set out on a quest to receive a blessing from the guardian of the water and the guardian of the earth to ultimately stop the spectre and restore the balance between the worlds. An adventure through Filipino mythology not to be missed!
— Aerie

Read because the Rick Riordan Presents imprint plus Roshani Chokshi always equals magic and heart.
Pass if you want to catch up on the Aru Shah series before starting something new.
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Ages 14 & Up

There's No Way I'd Die First by Lisa Springer 

A horror-filled story following a Halloween party gone wrong. Full of secrets, traps, and a killer clown! Caution: graphic moments ahead.
— Ayah

Read if you're the sort of person who starts in on "spooky season" the moment the calendar flips to September.
Pass if you're the sort of person who bypasses "spooky season" altogether in favor of "cozy season," "comfort season," or "Meg Ryan romantic comedy season."
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My Father, the Panda Killer by Jamie Jo Hoang

Powerful new book about the Vietnamese immigrant experience and the lasting trauma of war from local author Jamie Jo Hoang. Told in alternating viewpoints of Jane, in 1999, a high school senior, and her father, Phúc, in 1975, a boy fleeing war ravaged Vietnam, the book is unflinchingly honest about the cost of war, the lasting trauma unintentionally passed down, and the cost the American born generation pays as they struggle to walk the fine line between their heritage and their home. Jane is desperate to escape her father's unpredictable anger, but worries who will protect her young brother Paul if she goes to college, all while trying to process everything with her only other Vietnamese friend, Jackie. In the alternating chapters, we hear her telling Paul about their father's perilous journey to escape the brutality after the war in Vietnam and how he faced a journey by boat with starvation, pirates, and confusion to finally arrive as a refugee in America.  
— Aerie

Read because this powerful novel is one of our favorite YA books this year. 
Pass if you need something a little more lighthearted right now.
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House of Marionne by J. Elle

Ever since she can remember, Quell has always been on the run with her mom, moving from place to place to hide Quell's magic. After an intruder tracks them down, Quell winds up with her grandmother, who runs the House of Marionne, a boarding school for those with magical powers. Lush world building, a swoony romance, and a new look at magic make this a read you won't want to put down!
— Cathy

Read because Houston's own J. Elle has done it again — you'll want to read this one all at once.
Pass if you have an early bedtime and can't afford to get sucked in.
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Adult Fiction 

The River Runs South by Audrey Ingram

Camille's husband dies suddenly one morning while she is at her high-powered lawyer job. Working in DC, she is trying to manage being a law partner, raise a witty six-year-old and keep it together without asking for help; she fails miserably. Returning to Fairhope, Alabama to live with her parents in a town she wanted to escape from as a teen helps her to heal and realize home wasn't so bad. The town is such a vibrant character and Willa steals your heart as the most unique six-year-old ever. Don't miss this heartwarming story!
— Christina

Read if your shelf is full of Kristy Woodson Harvey and you watch Sweet Home Alabama at least once per year.
Pass if the idea of traveling south in this weather just makes you sweat.
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Full Moon Over Freedom by Angelina Lopez

With no other option following her divorce, Gillian finds herself back in Freedom, Kansas. During her first few days home, she finds Nicky, with whom she has a lot of history, on the side of the road. After nearly hitting him, Gillian and Nicky catch up with one another. Gillian hasn't revealed her divorce details to her family but finds herself confiding in Nicky. She believes that she is cursed but that does not scare Nicky; in fact, it only brings him closer to her. While Lopez has written a romance, there are many important lessons to take away from her latest novel!
— Ayah

Read because everyone loves a small-town romance, and this one has exceptional richness and depth.
Pass if you want to read the author's first Milagro Street book — they're loosely connected — before digging into this one.
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Attend our Event with the author on September 9!

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

A Korean-American family in Virginia has their world toppled when the father doesn't come home after being out at a park with the youngest autistic son. Impossibly, Eugene, who has also been diagnosed with Angelman syndrome, arrives home disheveled, agitated; yet this bizarre state is ignored by his older sister, Mia. Mia, her twin brother, John, and their mom, slowly realize that Eugene, who doesn't speak, becomes the main suspect in this unthinkable incident. The investigation takes a threatening turn when detectives want to place Eugene in a detention unit which might or might not happen due to a Covid outbreak. As this suspenseful, touching story unfolds, perceptions about truth and happiness get questioned as do feelings about race and language. Is the ability to express oneself linked to intelligence? What influences someone’s happiness? Many secrets and misconceptions make this a dynamic, multifaceted novel. Angie Kim is a sublime writer. A must, must read!
— Liz

Read because this is one of the best of the year, and Liz insists that you read it.
Pass if you, in your foolish insolence, do not fear the wrath of Liz.
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Adult Nonfiction 

Up Home by Ruth J. Simmons

An inspiring memoir from a native Texan that takes Ms. Simmons from the sharecropper's farm in East Texas to the hallowed halls of collegiate academia. As the youngest of ten children, Ruth was spared some of the hardships and abuse handed out by her mercurial father. Her mother tried hard to keep the family afloat until her death. From the fields to the streets of the Fifth Ward, Ms. Simmons worked to educate herself in the black-only schools where she thrived. After a college experience that was too social and too tame, she went on to be the president of Smith College and most recently, of Prairie View A&M. Every teenager should read and be moved to greater things.
— Valerie 

Read because this inspiring coming-of-age memoir will stick with you for a long time.
Pass if you like uninspiring books that give you nothing to think about. 
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Everything / Nothing / Someone by Alice Carrière

This memoir by the daughter of a famous artist and a well-known German actor tells of an unusual and challenging childhood and adolescence. Alice Carriere was raised in a freewheeling environment in New York City and Europe, exposed to adult situations by her aloof mother and her sometimes overly-attentive father. In high school she was diagnosed and heavily treated for a dissociative disorder that over the next few years landed her in several psychiatric facilities. She describes in fascinating detail what it felt like to "lose" herself, to develop patterns of self-abuse, and to experience a variety of chemical treatments. After reconnecting with a fellow addict, now reformed, she was able to start on the road to physical and emotional recovery and to reestablish relationships with her parents. Excellent writing and brutal honesty make this a powerful memoir.
— Alice

Read because this memorable debut will be one of the best memoirs you read this year.
Pass if you prefer forgettable fiction to memorable memoirs.
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