Book Bites: Very Good Books

It may be a new year, but here at the shop we're up to all of our same old tricks. Namely, we're reading tons of great books and probably causing lots of future problems for your available shelf space. Here, we've compiled a great collection of early-January releases that we think will fit right in to your existing TBR pile. We've got a lovely picture book, thoughtful middle grade, and a quintet of novels in different genres. What are you in the mood for? Read on to find the perfect fit!

Ages 2-5

Very Good Hats by Emma Straub; illustrated by Blanca Gomez

Emma Straub and Blanca Gomez have teamed up to create a delightful picture book reminding the reader that anything can be a hat. It depicts a wide variety of people wearing a wide variety of hats! A great read aloud that kids will want to pore over.
— Cathy

Order Your Copy
Read because you are looking for a joyful book that will make you smile.
Pass if you are anti-hats and anti-fun.

Ages 8-12

What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski

When Anna moves to East Middle School, she knows that something's strange about her eighth grade class. Rachel Riley, who should be one of the most popular kids in her class, is an outcast. Anna decides to create a podcast that discovers what really happened to Rachel Riley. As Anna uncovers a variety of stories, she has to be prepared for what she learns and how it will play out. Told in a variety of formats (emails, interviews, texts, etc.) this novel for grades 5 and up is a winner!
— Cathy

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Read because this is a well-written story with a necessary message.
Pass if you still write off bad behavior with the old "boys will be boys" excuse.

Adult Fiction

The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone

This novel is set in the Hebrides, where we face weather and more in these secretive islands. Maggie McKay has arrived to write a story about her past and that of the island. Robert Reid disappeared during a storm years ago, the same night the sweet young Lorne disappeared. This place holds so many secrets. Why are people following Maggie? They know that she was there as a wee child, when she claimed a man she'd never met had been murdered. Was it a fake? Who committed crimes? 

Fall into the wind and figure out what Maggie tries to learn. You will not be able to put it down. The outcome is maybe what you guessed, but isn't that the fun?
— Valerie

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Read if you're in the mood for something dark, suspenseful, and supernatural.
Pass if you are easily spooked.

Brotherless Night by V. V. Ganeshananthan

This is an intense and powerful story of a young woman whose family is torn apart by political turmoil and violence in the 1980s, the first decade of the civil war between Tamil separatists and the national government of Sri Lanka. Growing up in a Tamil community in northern Sri Lanka, Sashi wants to be a doctor like the oldest of her four brothers. In her first year of medical school, a friend who has become active in the Tamil Tiger movement asks Sashi to work as a medic at a field hospital, where she experiences first hand the atrocities of civil war. Sashi's brothers are caught up in "the movement," her family is forced to leave their home, and Sashi must figure out where she fits in the ongoing conflict. Including detailed factual information from her thorough research, the author makes the novel read like a memoir, and, in doing so, provides an intimate picture of the moral dilemmas faced by participants in civil and ethnic warfare and the permanent damage that results.  
— Alice

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Read because this book is brilliant, complex, and moving.
Pass if you aren't interested in human connection and survival.

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester

Alix St. Pierre grew up as an orphan living with a very affluent family, but never really felt part of that world. In 1937, she and her best friend Lillie are completing Swiss finishing school and headed to Paris to set the world on fire. Lillie has a different set of expectations than Alix and has to return to the states to "marry" well etc. The book tells the different lives Alix has lived since the friends parted in 1937: working for the government as a spy in Switzerland, living in DC recruiting women for service, and working for the famous House of Dior. Her past comes to haunt her with a past agent living in Paris who could ruin her new job and life she is trying to build. Working together,  they set out to destroy a powerful German who escaped the trials at the end of the war and is living freely under a new name in Paris. Caught between socioeconomic classes, Alix struggles to put the past ghosts to rest and to begin again, wondering if love could finally be in the cards for her.
— Christina

Order Your Copy
Read if you love thrills, espionage, and fashion.
Pass if you don't enjoy smart, multi-layered female characters.

In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari

A year after her sister's death, Mitra must travel back to her Iranian family home in New Jersey from the life she has carved for herself in California. The opposite of her late, obedient sister, Anahita, Mitra struggles to find her footing whenever she's around her strongly traditional father and the large extended Jahari family. Exiled from their homeland in the late 1970's because of the Iranian Revolution, her parents clung to their strict roles while raising their daughters. Mitra and Anahita assimilated differently. Anahita's choices are celebrated while Mitra experiences her own type of exile... especially from her father. Mitra and her mom, Shireen, try to connect, but like difficult puzzle pieces they take a great deal of maneuvering to figure out how to fit together. Shireen grapples not only with the loss of one of her daughters but also with her place in the family and the distance from a dear friend Olga, who was banished back to Iran by her overbearing husband. As this beautifully detailed family saga unravels, layers upon layers of untold bits are lifted off to show what molded each woman. Absolutely a must read!
— Liz

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Read because this is a beautiful exploration of family relationships and identity.
Pass if you're looking for a book you can move on from quickly.

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica

Unreliable narrators — a car full of them. Lily may or may not have killed her best friend's husband after he attacked her in the local park. Nina Hayes is desperate to find out what happened to her obnoxious husband. Who is telling the truth? Plenty of red herrings await.
— Valerie

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Read if you loved Local Women Missing.
Pass if you aren't in the mood to be outsmarted!