Book Bites: Mr. Adams, Mrs. Osmond, Ms. Poole, and Their Shadows

The days are getting shorter and the nights are cool and clear. It's the perfect time of year to grab a good book and spend some quality armchair time before the holiday madness sets in. This week, we have something to suit every taste.

We were delighted to see Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis in the store this month—their latest collaboration, The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, is a wonderful story for smart young readers. On the adult side of things, Andy Weir is back with his follow-up to his 2011 smash hit The MartianIt's called Artemis, and it's brimming with more of the science, heart, and humor that made you fall in love with his first book. If space isn't your bag, check out Mrs. Osmond by John Banville. It's a clever continuation of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, and it earned the prestigious Alice Seal of Approval. We've got plenty more to pique your fancy, too—we suggest reading 'em all.

Ages 4-8

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater; Illustrations by Eric and Terry Fan

Marco is a fox who wants to know everything—he's always asking, "Why?" While he is pondering a number of questions, a ship appears on the horizon and Marco hops aboard, hoping to find foxes with answers. As in many stories, it turns out that the journey is more important than the destination. Gorgeously illustrated, this is a wonderful read-aloud for ages 4 through elementary school.

READ if you love cute foxes and gorgeous illustrations.
PASS if all of your life questions have been answered, thanks.
Order your copy on our website.

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michele Cuevas; Illustrations by Sydney Smith

Smoot is a very adventurous shadow attached to a rather dull boy—he longs to break free and lead a more exciting life. When his wish comes true, hijinks ensue and other shadows are soon emboldened to follow Smoot’s lead. Smoot realizes that he must do something to bring the shadows and their corporeal counterparts back together, in happier unions. Featuring gorgeous illustrations by Sydney Smith, Smoot boasts the best literary shadow since Peter Pan. If life is a bookshelf, Smoot deserves a spot towards the top. For ages 4-8.

READ to discover a poetic story told alongside beautiful artwork.
PASS if you prefer your shadows, and life generally, dull.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy; Illustrations by Carson Ellis

Charlie is a diplomat’s son, whose father is too busy with work to pay him much attention. While the family is stationed in Marseilles, France, Charlie witnesses a display of skill the likes of which he’s never seen: An organized pickpocketing job. Does Charlie have what it takes to join the talented, ragtag Marseilles Whiz Mob? This clever middle grade read is punctuated by unique, whimsical art by Carson Ellis, and is guaranteed to steal your heart.
—Mary Cate

READ to discover if you’ve got what it takes to be an international pickpocket.
PASS if you’ve been bitter ever since you were kicked out of the School of Seven Bells.
Order your copy on our website.
Read a Q&A with the husband-and-wife duo on our blog.
Relive the glory of their in-store event earlier this month.

Adult Fiction

Artemis by Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara lives in the city of Artemis, which is on the moon. Yes, our moon. While there are thriving businesses in Artemis, tourism is a big part of the economy. Jazz is striving to become one of the revered EVA masters who give pricey tours to those who pay to go outside. But in the meantime, she is getting by with odd jobs and smuggling. Her master-welder father is constantly frustrated by her lack of ambition and follow-through in spite of her knowledge and intelligence. So to get herself out of yet another financial hole, Jazz takes a risky job that pays a whole lot of money. Too good to be true, right?

Andy Weir, author of the popular novel The Martian, comes up with a new book that is science-y, funny, and thrilling. Jazz is brave and scrappy like Rey from The Force Awakens, but maybe a little less noble. Nonetheless, you'll be rooting for her as you’re biting your fingernails. After all, any wrong move or bad decision can mean death—not just from bad guys but from the Earth-unfriendly elements too.

READ if you’ve been waiting anxiously for Andy Weir’s latest novel.
PASS if you don’t like science-y, funny, thrilling novels.
Order your copy on our website.

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

In this delightful piece of fan fiction, Booker Award winner John Banville brilliantly channels Henry James, creating a sequel to The Portrait of A Lady. We meet up with Isabel Osmond (nee Archer) as she is taking another look at her marriage to Gilbert Osmond after some dark secrets have come to light. Banville emulates perfectly the language and style of Henry James to the extent that some readers, accustomed to today's faster-paced novels, may find Mrs. Osmond slow going at first. The characters are true to James's creations, though Banville develops them a bit more (especially the spindly-shanked Mr. Osmond).  After dithering around in England for awhile, Isabel finally decides to return to Rome to confront her husband, and the action picks up a bit as the story moves toward a satisfying, but—as in Portrait—open-ended denouement.

Banville is such an excellent writer in many styles that it's not surprising that he succeeds in taking on Henry James. Though this is a serious emulation, one can see him having fun with the language and characters, and I think I detected at least a little tongue-in-cheek in his treatment. Recommended.

READ if you love Henry James and well-done fanfiction.
PASS if you don’t enjoy open-ended denouements.
Order your copy on our website.

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Perfect Little World follows the story of Izzy Poole, a young girl who lives in small town Tennessee. Quiet, thoughtful Izzy has just graduated high school. Following the ceremony, she reveals to her lover (the art teacher) that she is pregnant with his baby. When their relationship ends, Izzy turns to the Infinite Family Project—a 10-year research venture—for the opportunity to give her child the best life she can. This is an achingly genuine, strange story of misfits who come together to build a family. Wilson writes in a minor key, but no note is without warmth. His work will carve a space in your heart so uniquely shaped, nothing else could ever quite fit.
—Mary Cate

READ if you like family, quirky storylines, barbecue, or all of the above.
PASS if you read it when it was released in hardcover. (But really, that’s not an excuse, because the paperback cover is fantastic.)
Order your copy on our website.
Seriously, order your copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

This is a fascinating way to look at history—comparing the thoughts and actions of two famous figures from the American Revolution as they made their way through the early days of the Republic. The two came from different backgrounds and had opposing views of society, democracy, and how a republic should be governed, yet the fragile threads of their early friendship survived political upheavals and their two presidencies and flourished again in their last 15-20 years. Because it is the story of their friendship, Wood isn't writing a definitive history of the period, and he assumes a basic understanding of early U.S. history. Nor is this book a double biography. Wood's greatest gift is using the disagreements of these two men to illustrate the philosophical divisions in U.S. political history at the inception of the country, differences that continued through the next two centuries and can be still identified in today's politics. He shows convincingly that although the practical realists are always right, it is the idealists who are remembered. Highly recommended.

READ to explore this fascinating time in history in a new light.
PASS if history isn’t your forté.
Order your copy on our website.