Book Bites: Novelpalooza

Looking for a fresh read? If you're a fan of fiction, you've come to the right place. This week, we're featuring six wonderful novels here on the blog — with one irresisitble middle grade adventure and a rollicking piece of historical nonfiction thrown in, to boot. What will it be: Romance? Thriller? Historical? Or perhaps something new from a literary powerhouse (we've got several of those!). Whichever strikes your fancy, you're sure to be delighted by the recommendations below. Read on!

Ages 8-12

Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd

Change is in the air. When glittery white feather-flakes begin to fall, stories begin to circulate about a magical wish-granting hummingbird that hasn’t been seen in the town of Wildwood for many years. Twelve-year-old Olive Martin is determined to find it. Homeschooled through elementary school, her dearest wish is to attend Macklemore Middle School this year and finally find her BFF. Olive has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as OI or “brittle bone disease.” Yes, her body can be very fragile, but her spirit sparkles and her heart roars with the strength of a lion. Quirky yet loveable, with a kind and supportive family, new friends, incredible resiliency and inner strength… this story is a hug, even with its challenges.
— Jennifer K.

READ if you’re looking for a reason to truly believe in magic.
PASS because you’re not interested in beautiful and heartwarming storytelling. 
Order your copy
Attend our event with the author on August 11!

Adult Fiction

Husband Material by Alexis Hall

Return to the world of Boyfriend Material, when Luc and Oliver's friends are getting married and they try to decide whether or not they should do the same. Hall's brilliant sequel has you crying with laughter one page and sucking in a shocked breath the next. Sly humor and pointed social commentary combine into a simply lovely read that allows you to consider different perspectives and see the world around you just a bit differently.
— Cathy

READ because there's nothing better than romance, humor, and delightful characters all rolled into one story.
PASS if your partner has been hinting for a marriage proposal and reading this book in front of them could send the wrong signal. 
Order your copy

Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

Words can hardly describe my love for this epic novel (with at least 30 tabs to mark passages). Wiggins has given us a present of the highest order. Inyo Valley is home to Rocky, Cas, and Sunny. After news of Sunny’s brother Stryker's possible death during the Pearl Harbor bombing, the family ranch becomes a neighbor to the Manzanar internment camp. But this is only the bones of the novel. Food, family, and so much more populate this last novel of a much-beloved novelist. I savored every moment. Fans of historical fiction will rejoice.
— Valerie

READ because this is absolute, can't-miss appointment reading. Trust us.
PASS if you don’t mind missing great books by legendary National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalists. 
Order your copy
Attend our virtual event with the author on August 10!

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

This slim novel by Mohsin Hamid (Exit West) imagines a world where the concept of race is exposed for what it is — a made-up construct born in schismogenetic anxiety. Anders awakens one morning to find that his skin color has changed from white to brown. The same thing is happening to other people in his town, and with the change in skin color comes fear, violence, isolation, and a disintegration of community infrastructure. When Anders is threatened by racist thugs, his dying father takes him in, and his girlfriend, Oona, is still willing to be with him. Gradually, the entire population turns brown, and, after some time has passed, the anxiety and violence diminish, and life goes on. Coming as it does in the midst of a pandemic and a time of political and social upheaval, the novel gives a clear sense of the angst that tends to drive people apart but imagines a future world that is focused less on differences and more on similarities among human beings. 
— Alice

READ because this is a powerful, Kafka-esque exploration of race and identity. 
PASS if you need to read a bit more about white privilege and race in America before picking up this powerful book. 
Order your copy

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

When a young girl, Esther, goes missing after school in the town of Durton, the events leading up to her demise have you on the edge of your seat, wondering what happened to her. This is a book full of rich characters, plot twists galore, and a town that is as tired as the people who live there. Told in first person narration by multiple characters over a span of a few days, this is a brilliant debut and one not to miss!
— Christina

READ if you're a fan of psychological thriller powerhouses like Liane Moriarty or Jane Harper. 
PASS if you need to clear your schedule first so you can knock out this thriller cover-to-cover in one afternoon. 
Order your copy

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

In his latest novel, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet explores the concept of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance — the idea that the effects of significant events (trauma, great love) in a person's life may be passed on to subsequent generations in the form of subconscious memory. Beginning with the story of Afong Moy, purportedly the first Chinese woman to come to the United States in 1834, who became a famous novelty, he imagines the stories of several generations of her progeny: Chinese immigrants in the hold of a ship, a student at the famous Summerhill School in England in the '20s, a Chinese-American nurse in World War II China, a business owner in contemporary Seattle). The narratives go back and forth in time up to the near future when Dorothy My undergoes epigenetic treatment to help her deal with the burdens of the past that she inherited.  Ford is a self-admitted romantic, so most of the stories have a romantic aspect along with the traumatic events.
— Alice

READ because this is truly a gorgeously-written novel that will sit in your mind for days after you turn the last page. 
PASS if you want to read something with a predictable, boring, and ordinary plot. 
Order your copy

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

In his outstanding latest novel, Marra introduces us to a host of memorable characters. The primary focus for most of the novel is on Maria, a young Italian woman who immigrated to the U.S. as a girl after her father was arrested by Mussolini's secret police. As an adult, she found a job at Mercury Pictures, a second-rate film company run by two Jewish brothers who struggle to keep the company afloat in the 1930s and as the U.S. enters WWII. Maria has little time for anything but work, especially in the studio's efforts to get their films past the government censors. When a young Italian photographer shows up at Mercury, bringing news of Maria's father, Maria decides to try to find out more about what happened to her father in exile. Though Maria's story is central, there are many more storylines that converge in this gigantic stew of a novel that addresses immigrants, immigration history, and the early film industry.
— Alice

READ if you're looking for something that will light up your emotional switchboard and transport you to another time.
PASS if you're looking for something with forgettable characters and no sense of place. 
Order your copy

Adult Nonfiction

Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck

In this mash-up of early American history and DIY adventure, the author tells the story of his months-long journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in a flatboat that he helped build amid warnings that he would surely die on the rapidly flowing and commercially crowded Mississippi. In a mostly authentic recreation of the kind of boat that mobbed the rivers during the expansion of the American frontier from the 1790s through the mid-19th century, Buck and his constantly changing crew lived on the Patience, learning as they went, much like their pioneer forebears — well, except Buck had the advantage of cell phone and internet service. The narrative includes lots of entertaining stories about the crew members and the people they met at the many stops they made en route, and has great descriptions of the way they learned to "read" the rivers, comparing their challenges with those of the much earlier flatboat trips, about which Buck has thoroughly researched. Recommended. 
— Alice

READ if you’re in the mood for the perfect blend of history and adventure.
PASS if you’re happy believing that history is boring and cannot be told as a compelling story. (By the way, you're incorrect.)
Order your copy