Book Bites: Fresh Books Daily

The September rush of great new books continues! Here, we’ve collected some of the very best of this week’s releases. We’ve got a hilarious picture book, fantastic middle grade, historical fiction, thrillers, prize-winning authors… and even the first hint of holiday cheer. Dust off your bookshelf and make some room on your nightstand — you’re going to want one or two of these. Read on!

Ages 3-5

Hey, Bruce! by Ryan T. Higgins

Our beloved bear returns with those three pesky mice breaking the fourth wall and asking the reader to move Bruce around this interactive book. Readers of all ages will laugh out loud as Bruce is subjected to some hilarious hijinks!
— Cathy

READ because this is a fun and playful way to interact with one of your favorite characters.
PASS if you need to catch up on the wonderful Mother Bruce series before guiding Bruce through this one.
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Ages 8-12

Odder by Katherine Applegate

Odder the otter loves to frolic in the ocean off of California, tumbling and turning and cheerfully interacting with the world around her. When she comes into contact with a great white shark, she's taken back to live with humans, which forever changes her life. This story, told in verse, is inspired by a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that matches orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers. Odder and her adventures will hold readers spellbound until the very last line. Highly recommended!
— Cathy

READ because it doesn’t get much better than Katherine Applegate writing about animals. 
PASS if you’re the one person on earth with a grudge against otters.
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MapMaker by Lisa Moore Ramée

Walt, his twin sister, and his parents have moved from LA to Blackbird Bay. Walt misses his friends and thinks Blackbird Bay is the most boring place on earth. Walt's father, a former football star, has big dreams for his son as a player, continuously urging him to practice and attend football camps even though Walt is small in stature and more of an artist and a map lover than an athlete. Van, Walt's twin, is outgoing and excels in everything she does, making Walt feel isolated and inferior. When Walt discovers his own ability to make his beloved maps come to life, Walt, Van, and new friend Dylan are transported to a magical world. 
— Jean

READ if you’re into books by Kwame Mbalia, J. Elle, or Chris Colfer.
PASS if your magical power is the ability to resist great books. (Sounds more like a curse, in our opinion.)
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Wildoak by C. C. Harrington

Because of her severe stutter, Maggie is laughed at and picked on by her classmates, and she has been asked to leave her school in 1963 England. Before her parents ship her off to a special school, they send her to visit her grandfather in Cornwall for two weeks. While exploring the woods near her grandfather's house, Maggie discovers a snow leopard caught in a trap after being dumped in the woods by the owner who hadn't realized that exotic wild animals don't make good house pets. She frees the snow leopard and nurses it back to health. At first, no one, including her grandfather, believes Maggie's story — until they do, but they decide the wild animal is a lamb-eating monster that must be destroyed, and Maggie has to try to find a way to save her new friend.
— Alice

READ because this thoughtful, hopeful book is one of our favorites of the year.
PASS if you hate animals, think that nature is decidedly unmagical, and have no compassion whatsoever.
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Adult Fiction

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy is back, and she's experiencing the beginnings of the way life was changed as the Covid pandemic started to spread. A year after the death of Lucy's second husband, Lucy's first husband, William, with whom she has remained friendly, whisks her out of New York City to a small seaside town in Maine to be safe from the disease. This is the story of how Lucy lived during the first year of Covid — with isolation, life in a new environment, meeting a few new people, how she manages relationships with her two grown daughters and their life dramas, and coming to a new understanding of her relationship with William. The most impressive thing about Lucy is the way she reflects on her experiences (e.g. Grief: "God — it is a very private thing.") and the way she can express in just a few words the depths of her love and empathy for the people she thinks and writes about. This is a beautiful novel, just as one would expect from the author.
— Alice

READ for all the obvious reasons.
PASS if you need to catch up with Lucy’s first adventure before diving into this one.
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The Old Place by Bobby Finger

Mary Alice and Ellie are longtime friends in the small town of Billington, Texas (somewhere near San Antonio). There are long-held grudges and secrets in this town. Both women lost sons at an early age. Slowly (and assuredly), the story of all of their lives unfolds. When Mary Alice's sister Katherine returns after decades away, she unwittingly peels back all the sorrows that have gone before. With dry humor about the yearly church picnic and Mary Alice's reluctance to leave her teaching job behind, we share in their sorrows and joys.
— Valerie

READ because this buzzy and heartfelt debut will make you absolutely fall in love with Billington, TX, and its residents.
PASS if you only read novels set in large cities.
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Forsaken Country by Allen Eskens

Max Rupert is living in a self-imposed exile out in the woods, trying to compensate for the fact that he killed his wife's murderer by drowning him in an ice hole in the lake. Now his friend Lyle, the outgoing sheriff, comes to him in desperation. His daughter and grandson are missing and the new sheriff believes they have run away from her small town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Max starts the search, which is a winding trail for which he must enlist his former detective partner from the Minneapolis police. As the reader, we know who and how and why the daughter is missing. Fast-paced and perfect for fans of C.J. Box and other outdoorsy authors.
— Valerie

READ if you love C.J. Box, Karen Dionne, or William Kent Krueger.
PASS if your heart is starting to pound just *thinking* about how suspenseful this book is.
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Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

MacNeal delivers a powerful message in her new book Mother Daughter Traitor Spy. The setting is LA before America entered World War Two. The Germans were spreading their message and beliefs across America through small Haus groups. Mother and daughter Veronica and Vi stumble into this group by way of a secretarial job when they first move to LA, which leads them both into undercover roles for the FBI. A gripping tale about how regular people stopped nazism from taking over our country at a time when we needed to band together to fight as a country and not fall apart due to hate. 
— Christina

READ if you want a riveting historical thrill ride.
PASS if you want a dull futuristic snooze-fest.
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Less Is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer

I love Arthur Less. He’s dear and well-intentioned, a tad bumbling and always ready to fess up to embarrassing mishaps that he perpetually stumbles into. This second book is narrated by his partner, Freddy Pelu. Early in the book, Arthur’s former partner, Robert Brownburn, passes away. Only then does Arthur realize that he has been living rent-free in their former love-nest for the past decade and now owes quite a bit to the estate. Arthur and Freddy are in imminent danger of being homeless unless he comes up with the full amount posthaste. Once again, Arthur Less is on a grand (mis-)adventure to raise funds, accepting literary assignments and outside-the-box circumstances without question. This will somehow involve an old campervan, a black pug named Dolly, some unusual blueberries, a handlebar mustache, more than one visit to Walmart, and a long trip through the Mild Mild West and the Deep South in search of… he’s not quite sure what. Less is lost, but there is only so far he can go before he has to face some hard truths: about himself, his family, his current relationship with Freddy and (gasp) the possibility that he may (or may not) be a “bad gay.” Bless his heart.
— Jennifer K.

READ so Jennifer and Cathy can gush about this with you!
PASS if you still haven't read Less. (Tsk tsk, but we can fix that.)
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Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory

Margo, who works in her family’s winery, is out for the night and meets Luke, a handsome stranger. Of course, the next day, Luke walks into her office and is her newest employee. He’s taking a break from a high powered Silicon Valley job and can’t deny he wants more from Margo. How they navigate their relationship amid family expectations is the real story here and it’s vintage Jasmine Guillory!
— Cathy

READ because Jasmine plus wine country predictably equals all kinds of swoony fun.
PASS if you don’t want to find yourself impulse-buying a ticket to Napa in two weeks.
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