Book Bites: Summer Reading is Here!

In case the upper-90s heat we’re staring down hasn’t tipped you off, we have it on good authority that summer is just around the corner. Just take a look at our shelves, which are packed with new releases that perfectly fit the “summer reading” mold. Just in time, too — we’ve dusted off our annual summer reading challenge, which kicks off on June 1. So peruse the list of stories below, including tales of sleepaway camp, cats in space, time travel, historical fiction, and more, and make some room on your TBR pile. We’ve even included a cookbook to help you plan your summer get-togethers. Dig in!

Ages 8-12

Camp Famous by Jennifer Blecher

Abby Herman is struggling through the last days of fifth grade. She has dreamed of going to sleepaway camp and finally it is coming through but not in the way she expected. Her teacher's brother runs a camp for famous kids who need a break. Abby lies about her "famous" status but finds true friends who love her for who she is.
— Valerie

READ because you're a fan of The Princess Diaries and Camp Rock.
PASS if your parents never let you go to camp and you are bitter. 
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The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Shawn Harris 

Barnett and Harris, friends since childhood, collaborate on this graphic novel which was developed on Instagram Live during the pandemic. Funny and clever with sly cultural references and sight gags, this book will not stay on the shelves in libraries and classrooms and will keep plenty of readers glued to the pages. Bravo!
— Cathy

READ because Mac and Shawn are incredible, hilarious, and dear friends of the shop.
PASS if you're the one who's been taking bites out of the moon.
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Yonder by Ali Standish

Danny is fighting prejudice and war in this wonderful historical novel about a small town in Appalachia during WWII. There are heroes and small-minded people, and Danny must figure out who is causing turmoil while his father is away fighting. A gentle but strong novel that reminds us about the prejudice in all of our lives. Perfect for fans of Kimberly Willis Holt and Kate Hannigan.
— Valerie

READ because this is an important read about injustice. 
PASS if you can't stop looking at the gorgeous cover for long enough to actually open up the book.
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Ages 12 & Up

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

In this intense thriller, Islamophobia rears a brazen and ugly head at a high school in Chicago. Safiya is the outspoken editor-in-chief of her private high school's newspaper, a scholarship student, and daughter of Muslim immigrants. At a public high school nearby, another Muslim student, Jawad, is arrested for bringing to school a Halloween costume that is mistaken by his teacher for a bomb; he is subsequently subjected to racist attacks. A few months later, Jawad goes missing, and Safiya and her newspaper staff become crusaders for #JusticeForJawad. Meanwhile, Safiya is being wooed by Richard, a golden boy in her class, athletic, polite, and a really nice guy, and she is thrilled to be his date for the Winter Ball. Then Safiya discovers Jawad's body in a park, and the already dark plot gets even more ominous. This is an intentionally unvarnished look at what happens when ugly truths are hidden and ignored.
— Alice

READ because this is a unique and thoughtful thriller everyone should add to their TBR pile.
PASS if you're thinking more "beach read" than "page-turner."
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Adult Fiction

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

A 40-year-old woman travels back in time to her 16th birthday. You think you know where the story is headed — a little 13 Going on 30, a pinch of Back to the Future — but you’re probably wrong. In Straub’s skillful hands, the familiar tropes of time travel take on new resonance, poignancy, and humor. A beautiful story, deftly told, perfect for any reader. I loved it.
— Noah

READ because this is a "most-anticipated" book by... pretty much everyone.
PASS [404 Error. Reason not found.]
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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Mr. Dutton's 52 rules for running Bloomsbury Books in the early ‘50s set the stage for this heartwarming, delightful romp through the joys and agonies of bookselling. Evie Stone has recently been employed to catalog the rare books collection. She has a treasure hunt in mind. Vivian and Grace work the main floor in the hope that one day they may be in charge. There's love, intrigue, and mostly sweetness. Name dropping (which is done so charmingly here) includes Mr. Doubleday's widow, Sam Beckett, Daphne du Maurier, Peggy Guggenheim, and more. Get ready to cheer on the Bloomsbury girls as they find their way to happiness. (You may need a hankie.)
— Valerie

READ because this is a complete delight and we can't wait to sell it for years to come.
PASS if you believe men should run the publishing world.
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The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Divakaruni's latest novel is based on a true story of a young woman of low birth who married the aging Sikh Maharajah of Punjab in mid-19th century India, when the British were consolidating their power in the Indian subcontinent. Jindan was the last of several wives, and was widowed in her early 20s. When violent internecine conflicts brought Jindan's 6-year old son to the throne, she acted as regent, exerting significant power within the Punjab and against enemies outside the province. Divakaruni adheres closely to actual events as she imagines Jindan's conflict-ridden life — making alliances, having alliances betrayed, making decisions that eventually lead to her downfall.  Don't try to skim this novel. Every paragraph is packed with historical detail. 
— Alice

READ for the incredible detail and absorbing writing.
PASS if you're looking for something vague and only mildly interesting. 
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Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

Heartbreaking and life affirming. How is that possible? Sally, the younger sister to the beautiful and talented Kathy, tells the story. Early on, Sally is in the car when Kathy's talented and handsome boyfriend Billy looks away for a moment and in that moment drives the car into a tree. Kathy is killed, Billy is severely injured, and Sally is left to live a life of broken parents, broken dreams, and a love for Billy. We move quickly through the years of her high school dramas, college, and then adulthood. Running underneath it all, is a slowly building relationship and love between Billy and Sally. It's a gutpunch. Beautifully written.
— Valerie

READ because Espach perfectly writes about and balances love and loss. 
PASS if you're looking for a light summer read — save this one for when you're tucked under a blanket with a cup of tea.
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The Change by Kirsten Miller

The desire to right every wrong rages through this hysterical (in the true etymology of the word) novel. Three women, all with superpowers, avenge the wrongs brought on by evil men in the seaside town of Mattauk, NY. Our heroes are Harriet, a woman whose career has always been overtaken by others, Jo, with fire in her belly and heat coursing through her body, and Nessa, who sees ghosts. It's rollicking good fun only dampened by the loss of young girls, sacrificed at the altar of rich men and abetted by many others. Over-the-top crazy fun!
— Valerie

READ because this is a clever, punchy thriller that you'll gobble right up. 
PASS because you're finishing up Miller's Kiki Strike series before you pick this one up.
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Adult Nonfiction

River of the Gods by Candice Millard

As the subtitle suggests, it's all here: "Genius, Courage and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile."  Fortunately for readers, the two primary subjects of the account — Richard Burton and J.H. Speke — had intriguing personalities, and their life stories make this a whopping good tale. Millard does an excellent job describing the breakdown in the Burton-Speke relationship within the larger context of the mid-19th century beginnings of European imperialism and colonialism in Africa. She also provides the stories of some of the Africans who assisted the explorers, a few of whom received awards from the Royal Geographic Society. Well-researched, well-written and entertaining. Great for Father's Day, or for anyone who enjoys historical accounts of famous people and their adventures.
— Alice

READ if you're looking to learn something new!
PASS if you just read Death on the Nile and are tired of hearing about that long river.
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Make Your Own Party by Kelli Lawton

Chef Kelli Lawton, owner of Two Unique event planning company, encourages casual parties that work with one's own style while offering kitchen basics, tablescaping, and twenty party blueprints with flavorful recipes. A great gift for a college grad or bridal shower — or just someone who wants some guidance.
— Kimberly

READ because this is a handy partner to have for all your party-planning needs. 
PASS if your best friend is Martha Stewart, and you thereby have no need of a party-planning partner.
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