Book Bites: Shelf Care

Summer reading is in full swing, and we have great new releases rolling onto our shelves every week to prove it. This week, we’re focusing mostly on novels, from cutting literary fiction to an effervescent new rom-com from the one and only Jasmine Guillory. (But for good measure, we’ve thrown in a great new series that straddles the line between early reading and middle grade, too.) So clear off some space on your bookshelf or nightstand and get ready to read—there are a few books below you won’t want to miss!

Ages 8-12

The Dust Bowl by Michelle Jabes Corpora

A fine welcome to the young reader who loves horses. In the first of this series, Virginia (Ginny) lives with her family on the farm in Oklahoma. It is the height of the Dust Bowl. Her father refuses to leave the farm when many others are going to California. When he tells her that they must sell her beloved horse Thimble, she steals away with her horse to meet up with her aunt in California. Along the way she has adventures (don't all twelve year old girls!), befriends a young boy, and ends up back at home—where the farm is saved.

READ if you’re into the historical American Girl books

PASS straight on to book two in the series, Hollywood.

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Adult Fiction 

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

Twenty-something Winnie, half Vietnamese, a quarter Irish, a quarter Italian, in search of her identity, arrives in Ho Chi Minh City, where she has come to teach English. She doesn't make friends, she doesn't like her job (nor does it very well), she doesn't like her body, and her exploration of the city leads her down some pretty sleazy pathways. Nine months later, she disappears. We know this will happen from page one, but the author builds up to this denouement with an intricate and sometimes confusing web of events and characters that goes back and forth in time and covers aspects of Vietnam's colonial history and culture, with a heavy emphasis on the supernatural, spirit worlds, and shape-shifting. It's an engrossing read, a well-written combination of the real and the unbelievable.

READ because this is a spellbinding blend of horror, mystery, and literary fiction.

PASS if you’re looking for a sunny beach read. This casts more of a misty-October-evening kind of mood.

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While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Ben Stephens has just landed a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner. For Anna, this is a perfect distraction while she waits to hear if she has been cast in a new movie that will definitely raise her profile. When a family emergency brings them together, Ben and Anna find it easy to share personal thoughts and fears that they haven't shared with friends or family. When their fling becomes something more to keep Anna in the spotlight, she and Ben have to decide whether or not they will continue the relationship they didn't expect to find. Another winner from Jasmine Guillory, this story gives you everything you want in a rom com while delving into the racist and sizeist aspects of the entertainment industry.

READ because Jasmine Guillory delivers dazzling rom-com after dazzling rom-com.

PASS for no good reason that we can think of.

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Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell

Inspired by true events, this novel is about three girls who are abducted by a man called Boss Man. They are held in a basement in Queens for years. When they finally escape (if you can call it that), their stories start to blend into each other’s along with that of Miss Metropolitan, a local paper staffer who lives on their block. She cannot begin to understand how this story was going on under her nose. The writing is sharp. The author takes so many liberties with tense, style, and notations. It's a force to be reckoned with for any reader. Life will never be the same. 

READ because this has been comped to The Nickel Boys and has glowing blurbs from Jacqueline Woodson and Roxane Gay.

PASS if you enjoy missing out on cutting, life-altering novels.

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The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Edgy and sassy and made for millennials. Asha, a smart young coder, joins a test incubator Utopia. She is working on making AI more empathetic. Along comes Cyrus, the huge crush boy from her high school days. Cyrus conducts quasi-religious ceremonies for people, pets, and plants. They fall in love, get married (definitely without her immigrant Indian parents’ consent). When things go wrong at the incubator, both Asha and Cyrus have to step back and figure out what they want in life. It's funny, whip smart, and  savage with the startup culture.

READ because it’s funny, whip-smart, and savage with the startup culture! What more could you want?

PASS if you like dull, dim books that glorify toxic workplaces.

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Falling by T.J. Newman

Bill Hoffman, a longtime pilot for Coastal Airways, receives a call 30 minutes into his LA-NY flight. His wife, son, and baby daughter are being held hostage. His choice is to save his family by crashing the plane or keeping the souls on board alive. Bill's long time friend and head attendant Jo communicate briefly, and Jo is able to contact her nephew Theo, an FBI agent based in LA. Lots of action and angst propel this to the very end. It’s a fast-paced thriller with a full cast of characters.The author is a former bookseller and current flight attendant. I see a movie coming!

READ because this is a fast-and-furious thrillride that will grip you from line one.

PASS if you’re looking for a book to read on the plane. Seriously.

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The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray

Based on real people, this is the story of Belle da Costa Greene, personal librarian to J.P .Morgan, who developed his library into a world-class collection. Born Belle Marion Greener, Belle was Black but, along with her mother and siblings, passed as white, using a Portuguese grandmother as a cover for her olive complexion. The book follows Belle from her time at Princeton to the years following J.P.Morgan's death, and events are based on historical documents from the time. She has to overcome her fear of being visible (and potentially identified as black) as well as to negotiate the mostly male world of the auction houses. Along the way there is tension between Morgan's daughter and Belle, episodes of Morgan's famous temper, and a love interest in a book dealer (who is derided by Morgan for being Jewish).

A fascinating look into the early 20th century and its prejudices, concerns and constraints, from the eyes of someone who is essentially an outsider.

READ because this illuminates an incredible untold story.

PASS if you’d like to stay in the dark.

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