Book Bites: Tome After Tome

We’re capping off an extraordinary month in publishing with another round of new staff picks for readers of all ages and persuasions. We’ve shared more than forty great titles with you since the calendar flipped to September, and while we’re a little sorry for the strain we’ve probably added to your bookshelves, we’re mostly just excited to have someone to talk to about some of these great new releases. Stuck in a reading rut? Just check out the list below or stop in and see us — as the old saying goes, “If you're lost, you can look, and you will find books... tome after tome.”

Ages 3-7

A Very Mercy Christmas by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen provide a massive dose of holiday cheer in this picture book. Stella Endicott wants to go caroling and gradually gets the residents of Deckawoo Drive to join her. Full of both humor and tenderness, this is a wonderful look at the joy the holidays can bring to a community.
— Cathy

READ every word Kate DiCamillo writes. It’s a pretty good life rule!
PASS if you need to catch up on what’s been happening in the Mercyverse before diving into this one. 
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Ages 8-12

Oh, Sal by Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes returns to the Miller Family (The Year of Billy Miller, Billy Miller Makes a Wish), this time focusing on Billy's younger sister, Sal. Taking place between Christmas and New Year's, we see Sal adjusting to a new baby in the family, and she can't find her favorite Christmas present. Full of quiet moments, this is a perfect read aloud for families and classrooms.
— Cathy

READ if you’re into Dory Fantasmagory or Ivy and Bean. Or the Billy Miller books, of course!
PASS if you don’t mind missing out on what the beloved creator of Kitten’s First Full Moon and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is up to.
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Ages 14 & Up

Secrets So Deep by Ginny Myers Sain

Avril finds herself drawn to Whisper Cove theater, the same place where her mother drowned 12 years ago. Following her death, Avril slowly tries to piece together what happened. Why did her mother drown while Avril survived? With many secrets, Avril is determined to get as close to the theater and those running it, even when things become treacherous. 
— Ayah

READ if you can’t get enough of The Summer We Forgot or Wilder Girls.
PASS if you’re the one person on earth not looking for atmospheric page-turners this October.
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Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

Rust In The Root is a blend of history, fantasy, and horror that takes place in 1937 and is the story of a seventeen year old girl, Laura, who is trying to achieve her slightly mundane dreams — but instead is getting something far beyond what she could possibly imagine. It’s a gripping novel that envelopes you in its world, making you feel like you’re really there. With mystery embedded in every plot point, the story keeps you on your toes, constantly guessing what’s going to happen next. The characters are fun and well-written, especially Laura, whose sassy inner thoughts keep you entertained throughout. Laura’s world is mystical, with magic unlike anything I’ve read before. I would recommend it to fans of Harry Potter or Keeper of the Lost Cities.
— Alana, Teen Advisory Board

READ because picking up a Justina Ireland book is never a bad decision.
PASS if you’re looking to make a bad decision today.
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The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

The setting is small town Georgia in 2014. Maddy Washington is biracial and has been passing as white her entire life. She is in high school and just wants to be left alone. When her secret is revealed, a video of her classmates tormenting her goes viral. White senior Wendy decides that the school should hold the first ever integrated prom to reverse the bad press her school and town are receiving. Wendy even suggests that her Black boyfriend take Maddy to the prom. Anyone who has read Steven King's Carrie knows this book doesn't end well for anyone. Horror done right!
— Barb

READ because picking up a Justina Ireland book is never a bad decision.
PASS if you’re looking to make a bad decision today.
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Adult Fiction

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

In this anatomy of a friendship, two Pakistani teenage girls grow up in Karachi in the 1980s, witnessing the constraints of a dictatorship and the mores of their privileged but conservative social class.  Thirty years later they have both emigrated to London where although their professional paths have taken them in different directions, they still maintain their friendship. But politics, immigration issues, financial ties and personal lifestyle choices create challenges to their long time relationship. This is a good portrait of upper class Pakistanis in Pakistan and in the Anglo-Pakistani community in London.
— Alice

READ because this is an unforgettable portrait of friendship, politics, and more.
PASS if you’re looking for something you’ll forget about as soon as you turn the last page.
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Lark Ascending by Silas House

In the near future, the United States has burned to the ground. Our narrator is escaping America to a "promised land” in Ireland. It is a perilous journey where only he survives. In the second part of the novel, we learn of his time in Maine, off the grid, with his family and another composed of Phoebe, Sera, and Arlo. We learn quickly that he is in love with Arlo. This is accepted by the two families but tragedy is in their future. Arlo arrives in Ireland alone and makes a family with a beautiful dog Seamus and a fierce woman named Helen. They are in search of Glendalough, a land that is considered a "thin place" of which his mother spoke often. Many travails follow them on this journey. We know they arrive and that they spend their lives as a family.
— Valerie

READ because this fascinating novel sees staff favorite author Silas House exploring thrilling new territory.
PASS if you think authors should just write the same kind of book over and over again.
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Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah

In 1949 Paris, France is putting herself back together after the war. Jacqueline Bouvier and friends from Smith arrived to spend a year learning French and experiencing the culture. It was politically eye-opening,  seeing and hearing about the devastation in both Paris and Germany that hadn’t reached American news. Jacqueline had been groomed to marry  a certain kind of man of a certain social status, and the pressure her mother put on her was straining. In Paris, Jacqueline could be herself — or the self she wasn’t allowed to be in America. I loved seeing this side of the American icon we knew as Jackie Kennedy. She had been quoted as saying this was the best year of her life, and this book shows us why. A breathtaking story of embracing Paris, the French language, political sagas of the time, and, most of all, love. Sadly, we know how it all ends — but as the saying goes, she will always have Paris….
— Christina

READ because this well-researched book captures the heart of Paris — and that of one of history’s most fascinating women.
PASS if you refuse to read any book where you know the ending.
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Ancestry by Simon Mawer

In this very personal novel and tribute to his ancestors, Mawer imagines the life stories of two sets of great-great-grandparents. And what an adventure story he tells. In the 1840s, Abraham Block was an illiterate seaman who sailed merchant vessels around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean. He met and married a seamstress in London, had some children, and was lost at sea. We follow his family's story through the life of his wife Naomi. At the same time, George Mawer joined the British army, married an illiterate Irish girl and went to fight in the Crimean War. His wife Ann kept busy in his absence with five children and constantly trying to stay out of the workhouse. The fictionalized stories of the lives of these two couples is bolstered by the author's thorough research into census documents, birth, death and marriage records, details of the shipping industry and the Crimean War, and family legends. It's a perfect mixture of fact and fiction, written by a master of the English language.
— Alice

READ because Alice loved this one, which is a pretty powerful guarantee of greatness.
PASS  if you’re tired of greatness and just want to read something mediocre for a change.
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Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Taking inspiration (and a few facts) from the life of a real person, Atkinson's latest highly entertaining novel centers on London's underworld in the mid-1920s, in particular on Nellie Carter, doyenne of a string of night clubs. There are several other major characters who take turns on center stage: Nellie's six children who are the managers of the differently-themed night spots, a librarian from York who is on a search for two girls who ran away to London, one of those girls who wants to be on stage but who settles for being a dancing girl in a club, the police investigator who knows that Nellie Carter engages in illegal activities, but lacks the evidence, and a host of other characters who are integral parts of the events that take place. It's a rollicking story told with sly humor and many literary allusions. The darker bits (someone is killing young girls and throwing their bodies into the Thames) don't seem quite so dark in Atkinson's narration, and one gets the feeling that everything will work out for the Carter family — at least for a while — and readers will be entertained in the process. Recommended.
— Alice

READ because you know you can’t resist the combination of 1920s London and dazzling characters.
PASS if you make it a point to have awful taste in books.
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