Blue Willow Content Team's blog

Lisa McMann on Action, Empathy, and CLASH OF BEASTS

Nobody's better at balancing heart and suspense than Lisa McMann. Just take a look at her Going Wild trilogy. It's got a hint of Animorhps, a dash of Justice League, and plenty of down-to-earth moments between lovable, relatable characters. The result is a whole lot of fun—we can't wait for the series finale, Clash of Beasts, to come out on October 2. Coincidentally, that's the day we're hosting Lisa here in the shop for a fun event and book signing! 

We recently caught up with Lisa to ask about writing, her influences, and (of course) what's in store for Charlie, Mac, and Maria. Read her responses below, then pre-order your copy of Clash of Beasts. Even if you can't make it to the event, we'll make sure you add a signed, personalized copy to your favorite shelf.

Book Bites: What Silence of the Spy and the Absolutely Remarkable Creature, Please!

Do you feel that? In the air? That’s fall, friends, and it’s perhaps the most magical time of the year for new books. Not only is it a great time to curl up on an armchair and read, but all the big publishers are starting to put out their very best titles, knowing that they’ll make a perfect gift for your son / daughter / niece / nephew / mom / dad / uncle / aunt. 

We’ve got a particularly fun selection for you this week. Texas author Chris Barton is one of our very favorites—his nonfiction picture books are fun, smart, and sneaky-educational. His latest subject is none other than Houston’s own Barbara Jordan, and how could you not love her? It’s a wonderful book. Next up, we’re staying local (would you expect anything less?) with up-and-coming cartoonist and graphic novelist Ngozi Ukazu. She’s written a charming graphic novel about hockey (and pies) that you will absolutely adore—trust us. 

From there, we move into the novels. We’ve got a fun debut with serious teen/adult crossover appeal written by Hank Green (brother of John!), and a fascinating, feminist retelling of The Odyssey. And finally, nonfiction. Alice was on the edge of her seat reading a Soviet spy memoir that’s earned high praise from none other than John le Carré. And Noah may have gotten a little weepy reading a short, sweet memoir about the incredible power animals have to enrich our lives. Don’t wait, folks—these titles would really look better on your shelves than ours.

Anne Bogel on the Magic of Books

Anne Bogel is an author, blogger, and podcast host. You may know her from her blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, where she writes about modern womanhood, often through the lens of great literature. Her podcast, What Should I Read Next?, packs a plethora of book recommendations spanning all genres. But above all, Anne's a reader. Her new book, I'd Rather Be Reading, was just released this month, and is the perfect gift for your favorite bibliophile. Books after all, are a way of life. We can't wait for Anne to visit the shop on Wednesday, September 26 at 7 PM to discuss her book (and books in general). In the meantime, check out Valerie's Q&A with Anne!

Kevin Wilson on Family, Weirdness, and His New Story Collection, BABY, YOU'RE GONNA BE MINE

Tolstoy was right: There are innumerable ways in which families can be unhappy, and Kevin Wilson illustrates a chocolate box of examples in his second short story collection, Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine. Each of the ten tales is a perfectly-balanced cocktail, magically pairing bizarre circumstances and complex characters to produce narratives that will knock you flat with their eerie empathy and truth. Wilson's work is witty and melancholic, uncanny and relatable, but above all it is yearning—for connection, for understanding, for love. If you're anything like us, you'll be spellbound by this latest collection from a master of the form.

Two married members of our team are particular fans. When they were relocating across the country a couple of years ago, they took a detour—moving truck and all—to catch Wilson on tour for his second novel, Perfect Little World. Naturally, they were thrilled, and a little starstruck, to pen the questions for our Q&A with the author.

Sarah Smarsh on Poverty, Rural America, and HEARTLAND

This month, we're lucky enough to welcome journalist and author Sarah Smarsh to the shop to discuss and sign her new memoir of growing up poor in rural America, Heartland. Heartland is Valerie's pick for book of the year; it was  also just longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. So get out the pen and circle the date on your calendar—Sarah visits us on September 20, and we can't wait to see you there. In the meantime, tide yourself over by reading the conversation between Sarah and Valerie below.

Book Bites: Bob, Mac, Sarah, Olga, Sarah, and Sarah

If you've been following our blog for long, you know that we usually try to come up with a clever theme that ties together our staff reviews. Unfortunately, all we've got right now is that three of our favorite new releases were written by authors named Sarah. So much for that.

Theme or no theme, the books are magnificent. We've got two hilarious titles for kids by a pair of our favorite authors out there. (Bob Shea reached out after Hurricane Harvey and helped raise over $10,000 to donate to schools and libraries that were impacted by the flood. Mac Barnett is both extremely kind and side-splittingly funny.) Next up, a pair of fantastic works of fiction—one by Texas author and dear friend of the shop >>>Sarah<<< Bird, and the other a fascinating work in translation that's already claimed a Man Booker Prize. Finally, two new nonfiction books deserve a spot on your shelves. One tackles the dark real-life inspiration behind Lolita. The other is a devastating memoir of growing up poor in rural America. Both, for whatever it's worth, were written by Sarahs. 

Read on!

Book Bites: Jacqueline Woodson, More Jacqueline Woodson, and Other Great August Books

Many people know us for our kids' section. We embrace that. Good writing for children, after all, is what turns people into readers in the first place. So it's safe to say that we're pretty excited for Harbor Me. That's the name of the first middle grade novel that Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Children's Literature, has written since her National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming. To us, it's pretty much the kids' publishing event of the year. Even better? Woodson went and wrote another book—this one a picture book—and she's releasing it on the same day. What a time to be alive!

Of course, we're still making plenty of room for other books, too. Just check our list of recent favorites—whether you're in the mood for seafaring YA action-adventure, historical American epics, or darkly funny (and very strange) short stories, we've got just the thing you're looking for.

Katharine McGee on Endings, Technology, and THE TOWERING SKY

There are some authors we have the distinct joy of seeing again and again. Authors like Gabrielle Zevin, say, who has graced our shop on each of her book tours. We can hardly go three months without bringing Mac Barnett to the shop. Sarah Bird, Jennifer Mathieu, Katherine Applegate... the list goes on.

Houston's own Katharine McGee is one of those frequent Blue Willow fliers. We've hosted the launch party for each new release in her Thousandth Floor YA trilogy, those bestelling founts of primetime drama, glitzy glamour, and breathless romance. The final book in the series, The Towering Sky, comes out later this month. Which means that—you guessed it—we get to throw another launch party for this longtime friend of the store. (Not to mention a juicy pre-order campaign that you really shouldn't miss out on.)

August 29th is the date in question—we're looking forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, catch up with Katharine by reading our Q&A.

Book Bites: Humor and Heart

Here at the shop, we love a book that makes us laugh. Or cry, for that matter. This week, we’re featuring six wonderful titles that will achieve at least one of those outcomes—and a few of them will probably manage both. For kids, we have some hilarious new picture books in stock, featuring clever prose and delightful illustrations. A little older? We can steer you towards a terrific high school rom-com from Maggie Lehrman that will have you staying up late to see what happens next. And then there are the novels. Poignant and funny and altogether relatable, we think you’ll love the latest books from Anstey Harris, Kristan Higgins, and Joanna Cannon. Once you’ve finished reading, be sure to stop in and let us know—we’re dying to talk about these titles. Happy browsing, friends.

Our Hero Bob Shea on Bivalves, Basements, and Bananas

Here at the shop, we've been big fans of Bob Shea since we first saw his work over ten years ago. Bob has delighted us again and again with hilarious stories full of colorful characters like Dinosaur, Unicorn, Ballet Cat, and Cheetah. What can we say? We're a book store. We love people who write and illustrate wonderful books. But then there's this other thing about Bob, too: When Hurricane Harvey hit last fall, Bob was one of the first people to reach out to the shop and offer to help. His idea? A donation program to support area schools affected by the hurricane, with each donor receiving a hand-drawn unicorn. Thanks to him, we raised more than $10,000 to rebuild school and classroom libraries. So it's safe to say that Bob Shea is a pretty cool guy.

Which is why we're so excited that he's coming to visit us. We can't wait to welome Bob to the shop on September 18 (which happens to be the release date of his new picture book Crash, Splash, or Moo!). We encourage you all to stop by, hear all about his wonderful new book, and show how much the city appreciates his generosity. Circle those calendars! In the meantime, check out our fun Q&A.

Pages