Book Bites: The Wolf, The Vanderbeekers, and the Last Ballad Are Calling My Name

Another week, another batch of delicious reads. If you take a look at our Events Calendar, you’ll see that we’re entering our very-very-impossibly-very busy time. With so many events on the horizon, we’re even more excited to share some of these reviews with you, because the recommendation also comes with an opportunity to meet the author!

We can’t wait for you to read Wiley Cash’s The Last Ballad. Not only is Wiley a staff favorite, but he also considers this latest novel to be his most ambitious. Meet Wiley in the shop on Wednesday, October 25th, and prep for the event by reading the fantastic Q&A he did with us on our blog. Liara Tamani’s lovely debut, Calling My Name, hits shelves on 10/24. Likened to the work of Sandra Cisneros, this lyrical coming-of-age story should be at the top of your TBR. Meet Liara and hear more about her first novel at her launch party here in the shop on Saturday, October 28th! Don’t forget to read her insightful Q&A on our blog before the event.

Also, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse—it is hysterical.

Ages 5-8

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Barnett and Klassen again team up in a clever, winning tale about a mouse who is eaten by a wolf, only to find a duck already living in the wolf's belly. Duck has things pretty well figured out and shows Mouse how to make the best of the situation. Clever and beautifully illustrated, the duo's newest picture book reminds readers to find a creative solution to any circumstance.

READ if you’ve always wondered just what goes on in wolves’ bellies. 
PASS if you, too, have been swallowed by a wolf and did not enjoy the experience.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeeker family—two parents, five kids, a dog, a cat, and a bunny—lives on the bottom two floors of a brownstone on 141st Street in Harlem, New York. They freely admit that their home is never calm, tidy, boring, or predictable, but they dearly love the only home and neighborhood they’ve ever known. Their Scrooge-like landlord, Mr. Beiderman, whom the kids avoid at all costs, lives on the top floor and has decided not to renew the Vanderbeekers’ lease. When the kids find this out five days before Christmas, they immediately implement Operation Beiderman to change his mind, and there are comic and disastrous results. Readers in 3rd grade and up will want to move into the Vanderbeekers’ neighborhood. Sure to become an instant classic!

READ if you’re in the market for a heartwarming chuckle. Also to gain valuable persuasive skills.
PASS if you just don’t even want to think about cramming two parents, five kids, a dog, a cat, and a bunny into a New York apartment.
Order Your Copy on our website.


All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

The members of the Soria family work two-part miracles. The first miracle takes a person's darkness and makes it a concrete thing, each with a different form. The second miracle frees the person from their darkness. While the Sorias initiate the first miracle, they are forbidden from helping with the second. If they do, they will unleash their own darkness, and a Soria darkness is more terrible than any other. After Daniel helps a pilgrim and brings his darkness upon himself, his cousins Beatriz and Joaquin, the rest of the Soria family, and the pilgrims of Bicho Raro try to find a way to help him. This is a beautiful story about helping others and coming to terms with one's own darkness, whatever form it may take. 

READ if you’ve been looking for a wonderful new fantasy read.
PASS if you’re not much in a miracles mood, thanks.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Ages 13-17

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Teenage friends (and secret lovers) James and Sarah Jac live a hard life working in the fields harvesting maguey. When they arrive at a new ranch—The Real Marvelous—in dry West Texas, life changes dramatically for both of them. Sarah is asked to teach the owner's younger daughter to ride horses. James is "courted" by the older daughter. Magical realism and folktales make this a well-rounded story of star-crossed lovers.

READ if you just love a good love story.
PASS if books about star-crossed love just make you too sad.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Ages 14 and up

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Taja is a typical teenager living in Houston with her loving family, but she is questioning her life and her faith. Faith is something different to all people. How does Taja figure out what life might bring her? This quiet novel doesn't preach or try to explain the meaning of life. We are just happy to be with her on the journey.

READ to embark on a meaningful journey which has been likened to the work of Sandra Cisneros.
PASS if—you know what, no, just read it.
Order Your Copy on our website.
Read a Q&A with the author on our blog.
Attend Liara's Calling My Name Launch Party (!!!) at the shop on the 28th.

Adult Fiction

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Ella Mae Wiggins is a struggling single mother with four children to support. She lives in poverty alongside her black friends in Stumptown who work with her at a factory. When Ella Mae joins the union in order to fight for better working conditions, she is targeted as a Bolshevik and worse. When she composes a song that takes the movement by storm, she has no chance. Basing his novel on the real life story of this courageous woman, Cash imbues this Appalachian tale with warmth, a sense of real danger, and love.

READ if you love Wiley Cash as much as we do. Or, if you’ve never read Wiley Cash, ‘cause you need to.
PASS if you don’t enjoy tales of history and empowerment, all told in beautiful prose.
Order Your Copy on our website.
Read a Q&A with Wiley on our blog.
Meet Wiley at the shop on the 25th!


Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

The Birch family is gathering for Christmas at the ancestral country mansion. Because Olivia is returning from caring for sick children in Africa, they are forced to be in quarantine for seven days. As the days go by, secrets are revealed, more layers of relationships are peeled back, and they are forced to remember why they love each other. There's a crazy wedding being planned, a son that no one knew about, cancer, a secret love between the good doctors, and a falling-down mansion. It's a good tearjerker of a holiday tale.

READ to enjoy an engrossing family tale, perfectly wrapped in the trappings of the holiday season.
PASS if your own family’s already got your hands full.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

Texas Blood: Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands by Roger D. Hodge

This comprehensive study is both memoir and history of South Texas. Hodge’s travelogue meanders through family history, observations on regional history, and lots of stories about famous and not-so-famous historical figures. He begins with the conquistadors and Native American tribes and the settlers from the eastern United States and Mexico who ranched in the unforgiving land west of what is now Big Bend National Park. From the U.S. Cavalry to the Texas Rangers to the modern Border Patrol, he explores issues of law enforcement and illegal immigration. One doesn't mind when he goes off on tangents—it's highly entertaining reading. Recommended. 

READ for an informative, entertaining read on the history of South Texas.
PASS if you are Roger D. Hodge and already know this story.
Order Your Copy on our website.