Book Bites: Slump-Busters

If you've been in a reading slump, you've come to the right place. There have been lots and lots of new releases coming through our doors, and our latest collection of staff picks includes something for everyone. So if you're in the mood for anything from a life-affirming picture book to a YA murder mystery to a holiday rom-com to a mind-bending bit of science writing, read on. And if none of that sounds good, we've got plenty more options, too! (New Jacqueline Woodson or Tim O'Brien, maybe?) So come by and see us sometime soon – we guarantee you'll leave with a great new book and a smile.

Ages 4-8

Place Hand Here by Katie Yamasaki

A young boy watches people place their hands on a painting of a hand on the side of a building in his neighborhood. This connects them to family members who are no longer with them for a variety of reasons. As he waits for his mother to return home, he understands the connection that reminds him he is not alone.
— Cathy

Read because this is a sweet, heartwarming reminder of connection.
Pass if you were just reminded that you need to check out some of Houston's many wonderful murals.
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Ages 6-9

Detective Duck: The Case of the Strange Splash by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver; illustrated by Dan Santat

Willow Feathers is a young duck living on a pond with adopted dad Beaver McBeaver. She wishes she could grow up to be a detective and solve mysteries, but she wonders if she is too small. One day, a tire rolls down the hill and lands in the pond. Willow works hard to figure out where it came from, how to get rid of it, and how to stop the humans from polluting the pond. Along with a cast of characters that all live at the pond, Willow problem solves to remove the tire and communicate with the humans.  
— Aerie

Read because Winkler plus Oliver plus Santat obviously equals magic.
Pass if you don't think ducks and beavers should fraternize.
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Ages 8-12

Curlfriends: New in Town by Sharee Miller

Charlie attempts a new identity in hopes of making friends at her new school in this graphic novel series opener. When she finds acceptance among a group of Black girls called the Curlfriends, she learns that there was no reason to worry. A great reminder to be your true self and not to worry about what others may think. Recommended! 
— Ayah

Read if you're a fan of throwback series like Sweet Valley High or The Baby-Sitters Club.
Pass if you don't enjoy genuine, kind, and fun characters.
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Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson

Set in the 1970s in Bushwick, NY, Remember Us is the story of Sage, a 12-year-old girl who loves basketball — something which alienates her from the other girls in the neighborhood who are more concerned with skipping rope and how they look. The houses in the neighborhood at the time were always at risk of burning down, and the newspapers referred to the neighborhood as "The Matchbox." Sage's dad was a firefighter, lost fighting a fire when she was younger, and she is raised by her single mom who is saving to move them out of Bushwick, into a brick house away from the danger of fire. The book is a poetic look at growing up, the struggle of losing a friendship but the joy of finding new ones, and the power of leaning into who you are meant to be, despite what anyone else says. Another excellent read from Jacqueline Woodson.
— Aerie

Read because Woodson is a remarkable storyteller, and this one's as good as any of her books.
Pass if you prefer books without emotion or depth.
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Ages 13-18

What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

Inez Olivera lives in Buenos Aires in 1884 and spends much of her time chafing under the rules she must live by with her aunt and two cousins. She wishes she could spend time with her parents, who spend most of the year in Egypt, and she longs to study the pyramids and the pharaohs like they do. Old-world magic can be imbued in objects and passed along to the owners of the object, and Inez receives a ring in the mail from her father that she senses the magic in when she wears it. When she receives a letter that says her parents are missing and presumed dead from her Uncle Ricardo, who they were working with in Egypt, she leaves Argentina and sets out to find her uncle and the truth about what happened to her parents. Inez begins to be drawn to magic objects and convinces her furious uncle and his young British associate Whit that she can be helpful, and is with them when they discover the long lost tomb of Cleopatra. But there are darker forces on their trail, ones that would rather sell Egypt's historical treasures to the highest bidder, and Inez is going to have to figure out who she can trust and what really happened to her parents. A sweeping fantasy romance set among the pyramids of Egypt and the rush of discovery in the late 19th century. 
— Aerie

Read if you're an Indiana Jones or Death on the Nile aficionado.
Pass if you've read too many propulsive page-turners lately and need to unwind by reading a phonebook or a user manual.
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Adult Fiction

10 Things That Never Happened by Alexis Hall

Sam manages a bed and bath retail store. He enjoys the work and the group of misfits who work for him. Jonathan owns the bed and bath retail chain and thinks that Sam is too soft on his employees and calls Sam down to London to talk about the store's budget targets and inefficiencies. Sam trips and hits his head during an argument over the future of his branch, Jonathan assumes he has amnesia and Sam lets him believe it in hopes of hanging on to his job and the jobs of his team. What follows is a rom-com featuring two flawed men that will have you laughing out loud one minute and reaching for a tissue at the end. Alexis Hall is in top form — don't miss this one!
— Cathy

Read because we all love a good Mr. Grumpy and Mr. Sunshine pairing.
Pass if you prefer your rom-coms to have neither rom nor com.
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Attend our virtual event with the author on October 29!
Order some of our exclusive Alexis Hall x Blue Willow merch! (Keep scrollin' — it's down there.)

A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

Book two in the Christmas Notch series, this time following a different member of the fictional boy band INK. Kallum is now a business owner with a successful chain of pizza parlors and a supportive family, and a very popular sex tape that he doesn't mind being out there. Winnie is a fallen star in the Christian media world, formerly with a successful run of Christian clean rom com movies (in the fictional Hope Channel world). Now she is divorced, hounded by tabloids, and labeled mistakenly as a party girl. When both are approached to make a movie on the Hope After Dark channel, they agree, and they meet and fall in love on set.  There is the predictable conflict — she becomes pregnant, and they aren't sure he can move beyond his party-boy days and become the serious partner she wants to rely on. Happy ending when it's all said and done, as expected!
— Aerie

Read because you love a little spice in your holiday reads.
Pass if you're going to read the first in the series, A Merry Little Meet Cute, before diving into part two.
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The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

Longisted for the Booker Prize, Eng has written a beautiful novel about the colonial rule of modern day Malaysia. Lesley narrates the story of love and betrayal between husband and wife in 1910 and again in 1921. As Lesley relays the story to "Willie" Somerset Maugham, the structure and restrictions of the time are so vivid. Lesley had an affair after finding out that her husband had been unfaithful. But there is so much more to the story. The languid air adds an atmosphere of another world.
— Valerie

Read if you're looking for impeccable storytelling.
Pass if you like your characters and plot to be broad and vague.
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America Fantastica by Tim O’Brien

Tim O'Brien is known for his books about combat experiences in the Vietnam War, novels that describe the absurdities of war and the ways people coped with the resulting realities. His latest novel is a commentary on the absurdities of today's world when, overwhelmed as we are with mythomania, it has become difficult to know the truth about anything. Boyd Halvorsen, who grew up as Otis Birdsong, is a J.C. Penney employee whose former career as a tabloid journalist was cut short by his ex-father-in-law, a wealthy shipping company owner. Seemingly on a whim, Boyd robs a small town bank, and he and Angie, the talkative bank teller, take off on a road trip with Boyd planning to take some kind of revenge on his former father-in-law. O'Brien includes a running commentary on the tall tales and conspiracy theories that made the rounds in America as Covid added a surreal aura to an already wild and crazy story line in his novel. With tongue only partially in cheek, O'Brien gives us a humorous and fantastically zany tale that makes for highly entertaining reading. 
— Alice

Read because this is a sharp, entertaining, and thought-provoking story.
Pass because you're worried your 11th-grade English teacher will appear out of nowhere and assign another Tim O'Brien essay.
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Stars in Your Eyes by Kacen Callender

Mattie Cole is a rising star in Hollywood and when he's cast opposite bad boy Logan Gray, things don't go well. Their lack of chemistry tanks the movie's buzz, so they're forced to fake date each other to make things better. The lines between fiction and reality blur and both of their histories are not truly in the past, causing plenty of complications. A stunning romantic novel from Kacen Callendar — I could not put it down!
— Cathy

Read because admit it — it's so much fun thinking about PR relationships.
Pass if you think that love is always neat and tidy.
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Adult Nonfiction

Radiant Rebellion by Karen Walrond

Facing the milestone birthday of 55, Karen Walrond writes about joyful aging — not a humor book and not a science book, but a book where she talks to friends and experts about how we can reclaim aging as a positive process and let go of society's grim fear of getting older.  The book's sections look closely at ways to self-reflect, ways to rethink the definition of what it means to "be young," ways to reclaim our health, ways to feel good about how we look, and ways to incorporate both a spiritual or meditative practice as well as an appreciation for play in our lives. My favorite quote that encompasses everything she talks about comes near the end: "Personally, I'm far more interested in being radiant than young. Radiant, after all, is timeless."  
— Aerie

Read if you have anxieties about aging.
Pass if you're under the age of 10 and have no idea what "fine lines" are.
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White Holes by Carlo Rovelli

Partly philosophy, partly science in plain language, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli outlines the theory behind white holes, a cutting-edge concept he and other scientists believe could happen when black holes rebound and make a quantum jump to reversed time. A mind-bending and fascinating read!
— Aerie

Read if strange new worlds and boldly going are your cup of tea.
Pass if the concept of a white hole just turned your brain into goo.
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