So Many Books, So Little Shelf Space

One of the best parts of working at Blue Willow is getting to read so many wonderful books before their official release dates. There's a flip side of that coin, though—it can be so difficult not having anyone to talk to about our new favorites for months! This week, we're sharing a longer-than-usual list of recommended new releases, some of which we've been buzzing about since last year. We've got new efforts from all-time greats like Doreen Cronin, Lois Lowry, and Erik Larson. We've got staff favorites like Brendan Wenzel and Emily Henry. We've got gripping nonfiction that's paced as well as any novel. And we've got an early contender for the staff's most-agreed-on book of the year — hello, Colton Gentry! Dig in, y'all.

Ages 3-5

Mama in the Moon by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Brian Cronin

Baby sloth and his mama live high in the tree and sleep by the moonlight. When baby sloth falls from their perch, mama sloth knows just what to say to reassure her baby as she makes her way down the tree. Beautiful illustrations illuminate the nighttime sky. This bedtime story will become a new family favorite!

Read because this is a perfect, comforting way end the night with your little one.
Pass if you are slowwwlllyyy making your way through the rest of your TBR stack first.
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Two Together by Brendan Wenzel

Brendan Wenzel returns to the worlds of They All Saw a Cat and Inside Cat with the adventures of a dog and a cat exploring the world together. There's much to look at and much to consider in this picture book that readers will pore over again and again!

Read because any new Brendan Wenzel book is one that you want to experience.
Pass if you're rushing out to the shelter to adopt a new furry friend.
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Ages 7-11

Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All by Chanel Miller

A highly recommended, really sweet, happy read. Magnolia Wu is a first-generation Chinese American. Her parents own and operate their neighborhood laundromat in NYC. Mrs. Wu’s friend returns from California with her daughter, Iris, the same age as Magnolia. The pair are fast friends and decide to find the owners of the single socks left in the laundromat. They have to make assumptions about the owners based on the socks themselves and riddle out who they could be. This turns into a big adventure all throughout NYC and shows Magnolia that everyone has so many layers to them. I loved all of the unique characters in this book.
—Cat B

Read because following a sock detective around on her NYC adventures makes for lovely and captivating reading.
Pass if you just remembered about all the laundry you need to do....
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Legendarios: Wrath of the Rain Gods by Karla Arenas Valenti

Emma and Martin have just moved from Mexico to Chicago with their parents, and they are not happy to leave their extended family and beloved life behind. Their abuela sends them off with a couple special gifts, including a book of Mexican folklore. One afternoon they find out it isn't just a book—it's a magical portal directly to the stories in it. With similar vibes to the Magic Tree House series, the kids are transported to a different time and place and have an adventure related to a Mexican story set amongst the Aztecs. A great short chapter book and a fun new series for kids.

Read if you loved Magic Tree House and Heroes in Training.
Pass if you're afraid you might get literally *and* figuratively sucked into this one.
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Ages 8-12

Tree. Table. Book. by Lois Lowry

Eleven-year-old Sophie is precocious and wise beyond her years. Her best friend is also named Sophie, but she's 77 years older and lives right next door. Young Sophie keeps hearing her parents talk about how the elder Sophie's son is going to come visit because they are worried that the elder Sophie is showing signs of dementia. Younger Sophie cannot bear the thought of having her best friend move away, so she borrows the Merck manual from a friend's pediatrician father to try to help elder Sophie pass the mental test they're going to give her. The hardest part for elder Sophie? Remembering three random words. So younger Sophie hatches a plan to have elder Sophie tell her stories to go with each random word to help her remember. But with each word and story, elder Sophie recounts stories she has never once shared before, stories from her childhood as a Jewish girl in Poland during WWII. Poignant, funny and heart-warming. You will fall in love with both Sophies in this perfect new book from Lois Lowry!

Read because Lowry is the queen of capturing loving and inspiring friendships.
Pass if you're making a cup of tea and cozying up under a tree before diving into this read.
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Adult Fiction

Funny Story by Emily Henry

It is no shock that Henry will once again satisfy readers with everything a romance novel needs. It is the perfect mix of tension, banter, and so many emotions. In her latest work, readers follow Daphne and Miles. The two are broken after years of family issues and things only get worse when they find themselves trying to piece their lives back together after miserable ends to their relationships. Recommended!
—Ayah and Christina

Read because it's Emily Henry. Need we say more?
Pass if you like your romances stress-free and bland.
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Late Bloomer by Mazey Eddings

Opal has always had trouble telling people "no," but when she wins the lottery, she knows she has to do something before she gives in to people's messages. Her best idea? To buy a flower farm that is on the verge of failing. Moving to North Carolina as the new owner of Thistle and Bloom Farms, Opal does not expect to run into Pepper, who claims she is the owner of the property. Neither one of them plans to leave, so they come up with a compromise that states they will both live there, but in different rooms. Recommended!!

Read if you're a sucker for charming protagonists.
Pass if your mom called you a late bloomer one too many times.
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Happy Medium by Sarah Adler

Gretchen Acorn is a con artist who makes her living by "helping" individuals speak to their dead loved ones. When a frequent customer requests her services for a friend who is having trouble selling a haunted farm, Gretchen can't refuse when a large check is offered. While she expects this to be just like any other meeting, she is shocked to see and hear an actual ghost. Will she be able to switch tasks and convince the owner to stay when it is revealed that his life is in danger otherwise? Their banter and tension will have you smiling the whole way through. Recommended!!

Read if you are looking for something you'll want to stay up all night reading.
Pass if your personal medium told you not to read this one.
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Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton

Amerie's recent life has not been easy, and the struggle continues during a coffee trip where she spills a cup on Vincent, the guy behind her. While they both share a common coffee shop, Amerie is shocked to see her ex-boyfriend in the area, let alone with a new girl. What other option would she have but to pretend that Vincent is her boyfriend, all while being noticed by Vincent's sister who just happens to be present? Despite their brief and bumpy history, the pair realize the mess they started and come up with terms of a fake relationship that will benefit them both. Recommended!
Read because, here in Space City, you're probably feeling a gravitational pull towards this fun summer read.
Pass if you avoid books that are... out of this world. (Forgive us!)
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Bless Your Heart by Lindy Ryan

Four generations of Evans women run the local funeral parlor in a small rural Texas town. It is 1999 and the town tolerates the odd Evans women as their family has run the only funeral parlor in town for decades. But 15 years ago, That Godawful Mess shook up the Evans women and the law enforcement officer in town at the time, and it looks like it's about to happen again. When a local woman is brought in for burial and instead rises from the dead, it's clear the strigoi—a sort of vampire, sort of zombie—is returning. Locals keep going missing, law enforcement is trying to figure out if it's a rabid animal on the loose or if it's something worse, and the Evans women are trying to get rid of the bodies and put down the strigoi before it spreads further. A campy horror mystery, perfect for fans of Charlaine Harris or Grady Hendrix.

Read if you were just about to start your umpteenth rewatch of Buffy.
Pass if even silly horror still spooks you too much.
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Colton Gentry's Third Act by Jeff Zentner

YA author Jeff Zentner makes his adult debut in this fabulous novel about country music star Colton Gentry who, drunk and grieving the death of his best friend, speaks out about gun violence at a music festival. He's summarily dropped by his agent, his label, radio stations and his pop star wife. After rehab, he finds himself back in his hometown and ends up working at the restaurant owned by his high school sweetheart. What follows is literally one of the best second chance romances I have ever read set in a restaurant I only wish was real. Told with nuance and heart, this is one story you don't want to miss.
—Cathy and Valerie

Read if you love a second-chance romance with unforgettable characters.
Pass if you're going to wish Gentry had a real country album out for you to listen to. (But who knows? This one might get the Daisy Jones treatment.)
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Miss Morgan's Book Brigade by Janet Skeslien Charles

Janet Charles returns with another ode to the librarians who strived to foster the love of literature during times of strife. Jessie "Kit" Carson arrives in France during the waning days of WWI. She is on leave from the NYCPL where her wretched boss is making her life miserable. In France she works with CARD, a philanthropy run by two very well to do matrons (one is a Morgan). She lives, loves, and finds a meaning to life. The other story is about a young librarian in 1987 who works in the archives at NYCPL and finds the records and stories of CARD. Both stories blend together to make a satisfying story of hope and resilience. 

Read because Charles is an expert at reminding us just how important books are.
Pass if you need to read The Paris Library first.
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Real Americans by Rachel Khong

This inter-generational story told from three points of view is compelling in the questions it raises about genetic research and the stories it tells about a Chinese-American family. Mei left China in the 1970s to become a research scientist in the U.S. Her daughter Lily marries a wealthy WASP in New York City.  Nick, their son, grows up on the west coast without knowing his father. Each of their stories provides a good look at what it is like to be a hyphenated American, and all three struggle to find themselves, burdened by secrets from their pasts. There's a sci-fi aspect to the applications of the genetic research Mei conducted and its effects on Nick who bears no genetic features of his mother. And we are left with questions about why Lily left her husband, how Nick, who got only 1500 on his SATs, managed to be a straight-A student at Yale, and how Mei and Nick found each other in San Francisco.

Read because this is a heartfelt reminder of how our families impact who we are and what we will become.
Pass you're afraid of all the paper cuts you might get from this page-turner.
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Adult Nonfiction

Loose of Earth by Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn

A searing memoir of growing up in Lubbock with fundamentalist parents, a legacy of cancer in the family, and the underlying knowledge of the military "accidentally" poisoning the water. Kathleen is the oldest of five children. Her father is a veteran, flying for American Airlines. Her mother is a vet technician who shows great love for her patients and not so much for her own children. Her father is diagnosed with terminal cancer at thirty-nine. They decide to pray the cancer away much to the consternation of his parents.

Read if you're ready for something thoughtful and emotional.
Pass if the knowledge of "forever chemicals" stresses you out a bit (knowledge is power, though!).
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The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson

In this stunning work of narrative nonfiction, Larson brings history to life in vivid detail. He delves deeply into a wealth of source material to provide a day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour account of the events between Lincoln's first election in November 1860 and his call to arms against the secessionist Southern states on April 15, 1861, after their attack on Fort Sumter. Focusing on a few of the main participants in these events, he shows how emotions and passions, miscommunications and misunderstandings characterized the politics of the period. A theme running through the 500-page story is how little Northerners understood the Southerners' strong foundation in and commitment to their way of life, one that depended on slavery, cotton and a particular sense of chivalry. Short chapters that move back and forth among his main characters add to the building tension of the narrative and make it hard to put the book down. Recommended.

Read because this is a cinematic read from a nonfiction master.
Pass if you need a little break from political talk. Good luck with that this year.
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The Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides

A detailed look at the third and final voyage of Captain James Cook. Known as a scientific and detailed man, he became well respected for his cartography and for his ability to captain the men on his ships; he was potentially the only captain of his time with the ability to complete his voyages without losing any men to scurvy. He was also well known for his rare characteristic of having respect for the indigenous cultures he encountered on his long voyages. His last voyage was to accomplish three major tasks: return a Tahitian man named Mai to his home (Mai had been brought to England as a curiosity and had endeared himself to British society, but had become homesick), claim any lands not encountered before for Britain, and endeavor to find the mythical Northwest Passage, a path through what was not yet Canada, to shorten the trade routes via sea for England. Cook would never see home again, and would die in a confrontation with native Hawaiians. With the acknowledgement of the historically problematic way Europeans treated new cultures and populations they encountered on their travels, the author takes a very detailed look at the path Cook charted and the significance of his travels on this last voyage. A great read for history fans.

Read because you're looking for an armchair adventure.
Pass if you have horrible thalassophobia and reading this would make you want to move to the desert. (Houston is hot enough!)
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