Book Bites: Feast!

How have you been lately, friends? Spring is here in Houston, and we're looking ahead to Easter, April showers, and peaceful days spent reading on the porch. Here at the store, we've been reading more than ever. If you know our staff, you know that they're a thoughtful and opinionated bunch, and they're so excited to share some of their favorite new releases with you when you come in to see us. Below are just a few of their recent picks for readers of all ages and interests. With so many great options sitting on our shelves, the real question is: How to choose?

Ages 4-8

Chester van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme by Avery Monsen; illustrated by Abby Hanlon

Get ready to smile or even laugh out loud! Chester wakes up one morning not knowing how to rhyme. With sly plays on words, everyone will enjoy trying to guess what words Chester will use. A great read aloud in the classroom, library, and by any adult with a sense of humor.
— Valerie

READ because this is a fun book to read in a nook or by a brook or after you cook.
PASS if you think rhymes are no fun. (You’re the only one.)
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The Upside Down Hat by Stephen Barr; illustrated by Gracey Zhang

A boy has lost everything, except his hat, which comes in handy in a variety of situations. While he is looking for what he's lost, he discovers what's truly important. Gracey Zhang's illustrations pair beautifully with this modern fable. 
— Cathy

READ because this one is simply lovely. 
PASS if timeless instant classics aren't your cup of tea.
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Ages 7-10

Once Upon a Tim by Stu Gibbs; illustrated by Stacy Curtis 

Tim is sick of being a peasant, so when Princess Grace is kidnapped by a stinx (not a typo), he and his friend Belinda apply to be knights so they can rescue her. What follows is a very funny medieval story, perfect for fans of Mac B. Kid Spy!
— Cathy

READ because this is a hilarious and adventurous medieval romp. 
PASS if you're also a Tim and you hate it when main characters share your name.
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Ages 8-12

Honestly Elliott by Gillian McDunn

Elliott is a sixth grader entering a new middle school with few friends and a reputation for being unable to focus on school work. Diagnosed with ADHD, Elliott struggles to focus, despite the loving encouragement of his divorced but supportive parents. When a big school project is assigned, Elliott is faced with working with the top student in the class, Maribel, who has her own difficulties as her Celiac’s disease is dismissed as "made-up". 

This is a heartwarming story that realistically portrays what blended family life can be, and how to handle the very real world pressures of a sixth grader trying to juggle a new school, new friends, and new responsibilities all at once. 
— Raquel

READ because this is a memorable story with refreshingly real characters.
PASS if you just can't stand character development.
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Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi

Thirteen-year-old Aafiyah Qamar enjoys reading National Geographic fact books, playing tennis, and spending time with her best friend Zaina. Aafiyah also likes to take things that don't belong to her. Aafiyah and her family travel to Pakistan to visit her grandparents and bring her grandfather back to Atlanta for cancer treatment. When her father is detained at the Dubai airport and falsely accused of embezzlement, everything starts to fall apart. Aafiyah has never had to worry about money. When she sees that her family is struggling to pay for her grandfather's medical bills and her father’s lawyer fees, she hatches a plan to help. After she is caught in action, Aafiyah must face the consequences of her actions and try to redeem herself to her family and friends. This book is written in verse and I loved it. I think any middle grade reader will identify with Aafiyah's struggles and her desire to please her family and friends.
— Barb

READ because this is an important story with so much heart and hope.
PASS if you ordered this late at night and thought you were buying season one of Golden Girls. Now that you have this great book though, why not give it a go?
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Ages 10-18

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill

Once upon a time, Stone-in-the-Glen was the most perfect of places to live, a prosperous village where education and discussion were prized, where neighbors lived and worked in harmony, and where neighbors came to each others’ aid. 

A series of calamities—dragon sightings, fires, destruction of homes, parks, schools, and most importantly their beloved library—caused the villagers to retreat into their homes where they became self-centered, miserly, insensitive, and heedless of others, bringing divisiveness to Stone-in-the-Glen. The villagers’ self-imposed isolation leads to their myopia regarding their revered mayor and the rebuffed ogress who lives at the edge of town. After one last misunderstood incident leads to violence, the orphans team up with unusual partners to bring their beloved village back to life.

Told by an omniscient narrator whose identity is slowly revealed, this is a good, old-fashioned fairytale reminding us of the power of kindness and being a good neighbor.
— Jennifer G.

READ because sometimes a fantastic fantasy is all you need.
PASS if you are unwilling to accept that kids really are smarter than adults sometimes.
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Ages 14-18

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram

Hunter, one of five members of Canadian boy band Kiss & Tell, has just recently broken up with Aiden, Ashton's (his bandmate) twin brother. Following his public breakup, he and the band prepare for their world tour. Being the only queer member puts a lot of pressure on Hunter. While he puts up with the label, things start to change when he starts to develop feelings for Kaivan, the drummer of the band that is opening for them on tour. This is a good read and perfect for those who like boy bands such as One Direction.
— Ayah

READ because a book with boy bands, queer romanace, and friendship is obviously a must-read.
PASS if you share your opinion of boy bands with Meilin's mom from Turning Red.
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Adult Fiction

Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton & James Patterson

AnnieLee Keyes hitchhikes from Houston to Nashville flat broke but with dreams of becoming a country music singer/songwriter. She talks her way onto the stage at a local bar and a session musician named Ethan Blake (who works for superstar Ruthanna Ryder) is in the audience.  Ethan, impressed by her talent, introduces her to Ruthanna, who takes AnnieLee under her wing. Soon, with the help of Ruthanna and Ethan, her songs are being played on the radio and  her star begins to rise. However, AnnieLee is also trying to escape a violent and dangerous past.  When her two worlds collide, will Ethan be able to save her? 
— Jean

READ because James Patterson is a great champion of indie bookstores, and Dolly Parton is DOLLY PARTON!
PASS if you already have a mountain of a TBR pile. (At which point, what’s one more?)
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Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

Spanning three generations, Peach Blossom Spring wanders from Japan’s invasion of China in 1938 to the United States during the latter half of the 20th century. Young Meilin, a widowed mother and her four year-old son, Renshu, scramble to survive as they leave their home and settle in Taiwan. Living in desperation, Meilin keeps hope alive for her son by sharing stories that are intricately drawn onto a beloved hand scroll that she keeps safe amongst their meager belongings. Later, pursuing a college education, Renshu leaves for America and becomes known as Henry Dao. He marries a girl he meets at university, eventually landing in New Mexico to work at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and they have one child, Lily. Although he desperately wants his mother, Meilin, to join them in the U.S., a mix up with paperwork and many political difficulties prevent this from ever occurring. As Lily grows, she tries to find out more about her Chinese heritage and is met with fierce resistance from her dad. Closing off from his Chinese-ness is the only way Henry has been able to survive all that he has been through. The ancient fables from the scrolls surface from time to time in Henry's life, especially part of the story about a peach orchard. An artfully written novel that fans of historical fiction will love! 
— Liz

READ because this is a unique and moving novel.
PASS if you're looking for a book that *isn't* well-written and universal. 
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French Braid by Anne Tyler

Classic Anne Tyler. Her latest novel describes about 50 years in the lives of the Garrett family. Robin runs a hardware store and Mercy (who inherited the hardware store from her father) raises three children and yearns to be an artist. The three children, Alice, Lily, and David, grow up (in Baltimore, of course) and have children of their own. The Garretts, like most families, maintain a sense of closeness though the five of them drift farther and farther apart as the years go by. But because they still think of themselves as part of a family, the connections can never be totally severed, and there is an unspoken acceptance of one another for exactly who each is. It's a bittersweet but warm story that nails the realities of generational relationships among a cast of well-developed characters. 
— Alice

READ because you don't want to miss Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler's work.
PASS if you never learned how to french braid your hair so you were never cool in elementary school and it’s still upsetting to be reminded of this every time you look at the cover.  
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Adult Nonfiction

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

Johann Hari lays out an impressive argument about our lives today. Big tech is constantly pressuring us to be distracted: our phones, our social media, our emails, everything. He does a deep dive into our food supply, pollution, standardized testing and more. It's a compelling argument and a clarion call to figure out where we are going and how we can affect change. He states that his stories can be refuted by different people, which makes his arguments even more compelling. Highly recommended.
— Valerie

READ because who hasn't been struggling with their focus over the last few years? It’s time to get it back.
PASS if you’d like to be vague and distracted for the rest of the year.
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