Book Bites: One of These Things is Not Like the Others

So is it just us, or has the fiction hitting our shelves over the last few weeks been particularly great? You probably think we say that about all the books, but we swear—this has been quite the summer for novels. And the best part is that it’s happening across every genre. We’ve got literary books full of hard truths and big ideas. We’ve got family sagas. We’ve got fizzy fun. In fact, we were all set to go with an all-novel theme this week to show off some of our new favorites. But then Valerie read a piece of non-fiction so good that it just had to be included. So instead, our theme is this: Good books. Which, when you think about it, is basically our theme every week. Read on!

Adult Fiction

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

Maddy and Theo have several things in common: they're best friends with Alexa, they're both in her wedding party, and they're both incredibly attracted to each other in spite of themselves. What starts as an agreed-upon one-night stand grows into something more despite Maddy and Theo's intentions. Guillory provides satisfying depth to both Maddy and Theo and allows previous characters some cameo appearances. A well-done, very satisfying read—I read it in one sitting. Jasmine has done it again!

READ because this is another hit-in-the-making from the freshest, most charming romance writer around.
PASS if you prefer a lovers-to-enemies storyline instead. (We don't believe you, by the way.)
Order your copy on our website.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

Helen has no regrets or thoughts of her older sister Edith when she convinces their dying father to leave the family farm to Helen to invest in her husband's family brewery. The investment pays off for Helen, and her Boltz beer becomes one of the best selling beers in the country. Meanwhile, Edith works as a dietary aide in a nursing home and becomes a bit of a local sensation when her pies are voted third best in the food issue of the Twin City Talker. Money is a constant worry when her teenage granddaughter Diana comes to live with Edith after the death of her parents. When Diana is caught stealing, she finds herself working clean up duty in another brewery to avoid going to jail.  

Fate takes a hand when Diana works hard to become a master brewer of small batch beer. Edith and her friends help out in the brewery and soon Grandma Edith's Rhubarb Pie-in-a-Bottle beer becomes the highest rated beer in the history of a respected beer trade publication. Big brewery beer sales decline as the craft beer market explodes in Minnesota. Sisters Helen and Edith finally come face to face again after 51 years in this heartwarming tale of beer and strong women.

READ because this is a great multi-generational story full of lovable, hard-working characters and delicious-sounding beer.
PASS if you’re hungry (or thirsty!). The food descriptions here are unreal.
Order your copy on our website
Meet the author when he visits the shop on July 25!

Turbulence by David Szalay

This small collection of interconnected short stories is centered on the theme of travel from one part of the world to another. A secondary character in each story becomes the primary character in the next when each of the 12 people experiences a bit of turbulence in his or her life as a result of an unexpected interaction. The writing is spare, but a few words manage to describe these interactions fully. At 160 pages, it's a quick and deliciously satisfying read. 

READ because this is another great outing from the acclaimed author of All That Man Is.
PASS if you’re an extremely nervous flier.
Order your copy on our website.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead returns to the muddy well of U.S. history for his follow-up to 2016’s The Underground Railroad, this time using the atrocities committed at the notorious Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys as his grim inspiration. Elwood and Turner are two opposite personalities united by tough luck and shared trauma. The narrative operates along two main threads—in one, Elwood and Turner endure racism, shame, and abuse at the Nickel Academy in the 1960s; in the other, the reader peeks into the lives of the surviving Nickel Boys over the following decades as they struggle to process their pain and separate past from present. The Nickel Boys is written in spare and unvarnished prose that accentuates the horrors the boys face—gone are the surreal elements of The Underground Railroad. The result is a tense, gripping, and utterly horrifying referendum on America’s violent past. 

READ because anything that Colson Whitehead publishes is a can’t-miss event.
PASS if you're triggered by abuse. Even with Whitehead’s crystalline prose leading the way, parts of this can be difficult to read.
Order your copy on our website.

Say Say Say by Lisa Savage

In this short but intensely intimate novel, debut author Savage gives readers a glimpse into the life of a young professional caregiver. Ella is almost 30, living with her partner, Alix, and moving from job to job, helping elderly clients. Her latest position is helping to care for Jill, a 60-something woman whose injuries in a car accident 15 years earlier have left her with diminishing mental capacity. Ella can't really develop an intellectual relationship with Jill, so she focuses on a close but formal friendship with Brynn, Jill's husband. As Jill's mental state deteriorates, Ella finds herself trying to analyze Brynn's love for his wife and his way of grieving. It's a revealing description of relationships—employer/employee, caregiver/patient, female/male, female/female—with beautifully articulated thoughts and emotions. More analysis than action, it's a thought-provoking story. Recommended.

READ because this is the sort of debut that could launch a long and storied career.
PASS if you’re just going to have that over-played McCartney/Jackson song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl

In her short essays on life, love, loss, and the natural beauty of her garden, Renkl muses about this time in our lives when we slide into middle age. We lose our grandparents and then our parents. We contemplate life when we walk through the neighborhood and hear the birds waking in the morning. There is a lot to think about in these essays, and they’re best taken slowly, with lots of attention. Highly recommended.

READ because these are beautiful essays on life, death, love, and grief, with gorgeous illustrations by the author’s brother throughout.
PASS if you’re immortal and don’t concern yourself with such human trivialities. 
Order your copy on our website.