Book Bites: Icons

Boy, are y'all in for a treat. Consider the following list of authors: Julie Murphy. Lisa See. Isabel Allende. Ali Hazelwood. Helen Ellis. Now, you might assume that you just read an incomplete list of Blue Willow's favorite authors. And you wouldn't be wrong. But what makes that list extra exciting is that each of these powerhouse authors has a new book on our shelves, waiting for you to swing by and snap it up. And that's not all — we're also buzzing about a fun YA that's perfect for Pride, a brand new middle grade fantasy, the latest from Andre Dubus III... even a rip-roaring tale of a pirate queen. You'll find all of that and more in our latest roundup of staff picks. Read on!

Ages 8-12

Greenwild by Pari Thomson

Daisy Thistledown is an 11-year-old girl with a globe-trotting journalist for a mother. She could not be happier with her childhood spent living in amazing places all over the world while her mom reports on problems threatening the environment and protected natural areas. When her mom gets an assignment to the Amazon, she decides, for the first time, that it is too dangerous an assignment to bring Daisy, so she tells Daisy she'll stay at a boarding school near London for two weeks. But her mom goes missing, and when she fails to return, Daisy flees and accidentally discovers a magical portal in Kew Gardens to a new world called Mallowmarsh, where special people called Botanists can control plants. With her new friends, she must chase down the Grim Reapers attempting to destroy Mallowmarsh and the other Greenwilds… and also chase down the truth of what happened to her mother.  
— Aerie

Read if you want to be transported to another world.
Pass if you're suddenly overcome with guilt about the wilting plants on your patio.
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Camp Sylvania by Julie Murphy

Maggie and her best friend Nora are excited to be done with fifth grade and are ready for their dream summer: Three weeks at Camp Rising Star, a camp for kids who love everything theater. When Maggie gets home on the last day of school, she finds out her parents are instead sending her to Camp Sylvania, a weight loss camp. Heartbroken to be away from her best friend, and upset at her parents' criticism of her weight, she braces herself to be miserable at the same "wellness camp" her mother attended when she was a kid — the one her mother credits for helping her get past her "chubby phase." Arriving at camp, Maggie is pleasantly surprised to enjoy her new friends. But the camp is not exactly as advertised, and the campers all soon realize that the odd diet and the mandatory blood donations are pointing to the owner of the camp, Sylvie, maybe being a vampire! The kids must save themselves, save their parents, and stop Sylvie's nefarious plans to use kids as a source for bottled vampire drinks in this very funny summer camp adventure — and Maggie must gather the confidence to tell her parents she's happy in her own body, too.
— Aerie

Read because you're a fan of Spooky Stories or Starfish. 
Pass if you have no taste. It's Julie Murphy!
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Attend Our Event with Julie Murphy on June 17!

Ages 14 & up

Riley Weaver Needs a Date to the Gaybutante Ball by Jason June

All Riley Weaver wants is to become a member of the Gaybutante Society along with Sabrina, his lesbian best friend. Riley is femme and proud until obnoxious gay jock Skylar bets him that no masc cis gay man would ever want to date a femme like Riley. As his Gaybutante project, Riley decides to create a podcast detailing the dare, which his best friend Nick produces. Of course, complications arise, feelings are hurt, and the story cleverly resolves itself. Like Riley, this novel is clever, funny, and full of acceptance. I loved it!
— Cathy

Read because this is a fun and heartwarming coming-of-age story that's perfect for Pride Month.
Pass if you're now busy planning your own Gaybutante ball.
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Adult Fiction

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See

Inspired by the true story of a woman physician in 15th century China, this is the story of Tan Yunxian, born into an elite family in 1469. Yunxian begins her study of medicine at age 8 with her Grandmother and Grandfather, also physicians. When she enters an arranged marriage and is sent to live with her husband's family, she is forbidden to practice medicine and is kept away from her childhood friends by her mother-in-law. This is the story of a courageous woman overcoming tremendous odds to help other women and remain loyal to the people she loves.
— Jean

Read because Lisa See is wonderful, and this one was an Indie Next List pick.
Pass because this is a captivating story of female friendship based on a true story. Actually, wait — that's another reason to read it.
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Such Kindness by Andre Dubus III

Tom Lowe used to have a construction company and built his family their dream house. But an accident has left him disabled. He has lost everything — home, job, money, his wife and son, and now his car. In his desperation, he considers turning to crime. But Tom is basically a good guy, and realizing that crime is not the answer, he experiences a sort of epiphany that sends him in a different direction despite his ongoing physical challenges. As he gets to know more of his Section 8 housing neighbors and experiences the kindnesses of others, he learns to find a kind of liberation in the acceptance of his situation. Nobody does down-and-out with more grace and empathy than Dubus.
— Alice

Read because this book will remind you to lead with compassion.
Pass if you can't stand multi-layered characters.
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Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

Wyatt and Sam have spent carefree summers at the beach, living next door to each other, since they were five and six. Over the years, ignoring each other turned into becoming friends which leads to first love. Told in chapters by each character, we go back in time and see the bond that was formed and cry when it's broken. In the present day, Sam is engaged to be married, and spending time at the beach with her fiancé becomes a nightmare with Wyatt living next door again. She has associated the beach with Wyatt and the devastation of their breakup, but healing begins and she starts to put the past behind her and see once again the gift of summers with her family at the beach and why it was so special all those years ago. Her fiancé is a nice guy, but is he "the one" for Sam? Readers cross their fingers and hope true love can conquer all....
— Christina

Read because this will give you butterflies in your stomach, in the best way.
Pass if you're saving this book for a midwinter pick-me-up.
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Attend Our Event
 with the author on June 13!

Deep As the Sky, Red As the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig

A rip-roaring historical novel based on a real-life Chinese pirate queen. In the first chapter, her captain, husband, and captor (it's complicated) is killed by a rival gang. Completely at home on the high seas, Shek Yeung must maneuver her way to whatever is next. She makes herself available to the next captain  and the story goes on from there. Intrigue, secret assignations, and lots of killing.
— Valerie

Read if you are looking for a read that absolutely dazzles you.
Pass if you haven't been able to move past that gorgeous cover. (Open it — we promise it's worth it!)
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The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni

After experiencing a brain injury-inducing accident at the end of high school football, Brink develops a condition that makes him able to see patterns everywhere. This bizarre disorder at first frightens him and makes him feel isolated. With help, he eventually understands that he has sudden-acquired-savant syndrome, a rare gift that allows him to make and solve complex puzzles. He establishes a stable life for himself that involves creating puzzles for the New York Times and hanging with his beloved dachshund, Connie. On a rare request, Brink is asked to help a psychiatrist for prisoner Jess Price. After one visit to the upstate penitentiary where the mute Jess is being held, Brink's normally tame existence rapidly becomes dangerous. Regardless of the risk, Brink feels a connection to Jess and vows to help her understand and solve the God puzzle. The more Brink discovers about this puzzle the more he realizes the potential it has to devastate the world and humankind. A thrilling, twisting tale that combines technology, ancient religion, and other worldly forces. An entertaining read!
— Liz

Read if you are a fan of The Da Vinci Code.
Pass if you're going to spend the next six hours staring at a Rubik's Cube.
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The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende

The story opens with Samual Adler fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria shortly after Kristallnacht claims his Jewish parents, and he ends up in England via the Kindertransport. He struggles but finds footing as a brilliant musician and meets his bohemian wife in New Orleans. The story then jumps to Anita and her mother Marisol, who are fleeing the violence in El Salvador and illegally cross the border into the US during the family separation policies immediately prior to COVID. Separated, Anita, who is blind, finds humanitarian help from a woman named Selena and her friend Frank, a pro bono lawyer helping represent children in front of judges. The story is told in pieces — we find out everyone's back stories and are introduced to Leticia early on, but don't find out how she will be used to connect everyone together until the last 50 pages of the book. The plot itself is moving and the symbolic connection of the Jewish children to the children coming to the US from Central America is deftly done.
— Aerie

Read because Allende is an expert at intertwining two heartfelt and powerful stories.
Pass if you'd like to read something you'll immediately forget.
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Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood

When Elsie Hannaway finds herself earning almost nothing as a physics professor, she resorts to working for Faux, a fake dating service. While everyone seems to love her, she has trouble reading the older brother of her favorite client, Greg. Greg's older brother, Jack, is skeptical of Elsie, and things only get worse when he discovers that she is not actually a librarian as she claims when she is competing for a physicist position at MIT, where Jack currently works. The only way to clear her name with Jack is to tell him the truth, but she finds herself protective of Greg and decides to keep the lies coming. For fans of enemies-to-lovers stories!
— Ayah

Read because this has women in STEM, enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, drama, and romance all rolled into one.
Pass if you are anti-joy.
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Adult Nonfiction

Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge by Helen Ellis

Classic Helen Ellis humor in her new book of essays covering some of the more hilarious moments from her marriage, from its beginnings through its flourishing during the pandemic lockdowns, where she and her husband painted their TV room a bright coral and declared it the Coral Lounge. Laugh-out-loud funny and not to be missed! Personal favorites: the (hilariously long) email to the cat-sitter and "Woman under the influence of Joan Collins’ Dynasty."
— Aerie

Read if it's been a while since your last belly laugh — nobody makes us howl like Helen Ellis.
Pass if you think that laughter is actually the *worst* medicine.
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The Elissas by Samantha Leach

Elissa, Alyssa, and Alissa befriend one another as high schoolers at Ponca Pines Academy, a boarding school for troubled teens. Less than a decade later, each of the girls is dead.

Samantha Leach, entertainment editor-at-large at Bustle, examines this tragedy in a book that is part memoir, part sociological narrative of suburban teen addiction, and part exposé. Leach was childhood best friends with Elissa and serves as a candid and vulnerable narrator, grappling with her own remorse and guilt over the fate of her friend on nearly every page. Samantha and the Elissas came of age in the era of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie — models of disordered behavior whose fame helped transform tragedy and addiction into a kind of chic entertainment. Leach pushes back against those narratives and exposes the predatory, abusive, and ineffective sides of America’s “Troubled Teen Industry.”
— Noah

Read because this is a personal and intimate story that will stick with you.
Pass if you're on a fiction kick at the moment or are wanting to keep it light.
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