Lot by Bryan Washington
I recently finished Lot by Bryan Washington. This collection of interconnected short stories follows the life of an unnamed narrator (until the end where it's revealed in a short memory of his first sexual affair with another boy) that grapples with sexuality, identity (being both Mexican and black),and living in a gritty Houston where gangs, drugs, and disappearing is the norm. It reminded me of Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her, only queer. In this collection, we also explore relationships - both familial and romantic and how the relationships we watch as younger people inform how we act in relationships as adults.
In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.
Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms. -Penguin Random House
This is the romance book I have been waiting for. A strong female lead, a realistic timeline, witty quips, men and women who really can just be friends, the realization that relationships don't fix everything.... This book has it all, plus the happy ending. I truly did laugh out loud multiple times. It felt like a celebration of all the messy parts of life. A year ago, Evvie lost her husband in a car crash. And while she has yet to move on, it is not for the reason that everyone in her small town thinks. Her deepest secret? She had the car packed and was ready to skip town when she got the call telling her the her husband was in the ER. Now she stays holed up in a house that she never wanted, wracked with guilt over the fact that she didn't love the man everyone thinks was the best thing that ever happened to her. But when she lets a disgraced baseball player rent the downstairs apartment, she begins to open up again and starts telling the truth to her friends and her self. - Cori
From the host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast comes a heartfelt debut about the unlikely relationship between a young woman who’s lost her husband and a major league pitcher who’s lost his game.
In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her large, painfully empty house nearly a year after her husband’s death in a car crash. Everyone in town, even her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and Evvie doesn’t correct them.
Meanwhile, in New York City, Dean Tenney, former Major League pitcher and Andy’s childhood best friend, is wrestling with what miserable athletes living out their worst nightmares call the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and, even worse, he can’t figure out why. As the media storm heats up, an invitation from Andy to stay in Maine seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button on Dean’s future.
When he moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken—and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. To move forward, Evvie and Dean will have to reckon with their pasts—the friendships they’ve damaged, the secrets they’ve kept—but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance—up until the last out.
A joyful, hilarious, and hope-filled debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over will have you cheering for the two most unlikely comebacks of the year—and will leave you wanting more from Linda Holmes. - Penguin Random House
How would you describe your job to someone you just met?
My job is amazing. I work with kind-hearted and talented co-workers. I love spending my time surrounded by books while working.
Last book you loved?
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippmann
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Flagstaff, Arizona
What did you do before you came to Bright Side?
I was and currently am in school and work part time.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is to be in a cozy, beautiful, and calming environment surrounded by great people and books.
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I am either with the people I love, doing schoolwork, or outside.
Recommend an author/book you think everybody should read:
Dean Koontz- The Jane Hawk Series. His writing is suspenseful, fast paced, and beautifully put together.
Do you collect any particular types of books?
I tend to collect Poetry and Mystery/Thriller books. Many of my favorite poets are published through Andrew McMeel.
18 Days of Young Adult Fantasy
I wish I could do a whole year of YA Fantasy, then I might have enough room on a list for all of my favorites. As it stands, I write to you having compiled the ultimate list of Young Adult Fantasy books that will blow your mind and make you want to devour them. There is a fantasy for everyone on this list, and I hope you find yours. I have ranked them from awesome to awesome r(18-1). Some authors are repeated because they are so good I’m pretty sure their grocery lists are thrilling, plus it would be impossible to feature them only once. So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself.
18. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This book is so cool it hurts. Sabaa Tahir has created a world that rings with truth and mystery. Strong themes of loyalty, friendship, and justice.
17. Ever the Brave by Erin Summerhill
This book has a classic fantasy world structure. It’s got all the basics: magic, monarchies, and war. It is beautifully written and I fell into it.
16. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Schotle
This book is by far the most unique book I’ve read in the past year. Set in a fantasy world, this is a murder mystery! It was all woven together quite skillfully.
15. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This is the first in a completed trilogy set in a world filled with conflict and magic. Soon to be a Netflix Original Show!
14. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
A brilliant use of African mythology and YA fantasy to send a message about oppression and racism with a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement. I loved the complicated characters and world building, and the story ended at a point that has left me waiting for the next one in this trilogy. (Guest review from Cori!)
13. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
A classic tale of destiny and adventure. This book speaks to so many, from innocent children to jaded adults.
12. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rodgerson
A truly immersive stand-alone story. I was entranced and I eagerly raced through the pages.
11. Strange the Dreamer by Lani Taylor
Reading this book is a beautiful and entrancing experience, almost hypnotic.
10. Wicked Saints by Emily A Duncan
Gothic, dark, and enchanting. For those of you who love the shadowy side of a book, or who love a good villain.
9. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rodgerson
Fantastically whimsical tale told in a magical library, Hogwarts has got nothing on Summerhall.
8. Black Wings Beating by Alex London
Creative, riveting, and stunning. A fantasy book about birds, who would have thought it could be so good???
7. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Haunting, Jude is a protagonist unlike any other. She is ruthless and cunning, willing to work hard to build her world up all around her and to send it crashing down around everyone else.
6. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
A fantastical seafaring journey I loved every second of. Adventurous and lively, I want to be friends with these girls so badly.
5. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
An epic tale that spans seven (7) books. The beginning reeled me in but you won’t believe where you end up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love every sentence of it.
4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This is it people, literary gold: A fantasy heist novel. Think Oceans 11, but with magic and a lot more danger.
3. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Demon hunting, family drama, and star crossed love. This book has a little something for everyone. I have loved this book since I was 13, it will forever hold a place in my heart.
2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
This book hit me hard. This series hit me hard. The journey, character development, and world building are all just stunning. The first book is amazing, the second book blew me away, and the third book brought me back.
1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This is the fantasy that I compare all others to. It is the perfect blend of epic and exciting, there is magic, dragons, war, secrets, and prophecies. What else could a book lover want?
18 Days of Summer
Now that summer has come, I am sharing a list of 18 books for your summer reads that are probably not on your radar because they are not necessarily getting bestseller list buzz. But you know what? Reading the same books as everyone else is BORING. And, you can find those easily on your own. I’m giving you a diverse list of authors and books to explore. Now, you can be that cool person who shares an interesting find with your friends and family who are relying on bestseller lists for their reading ideas.
Young Adult (for adults and teenagers)
If you are looking for a mysterious fantasy series, look no further than the dark and creepy fairy tale that is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. Speaking of dark, Scythe by Neal Schusterman is a dystopian thriller, in which the perfect world has been created. Perfection comes at a cost and now they need to facilitate when life should end to control population. This series introduces us to the newest two apprentices who did not choose this job. In yet another futuristic world, death is also the focus of They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera where you get 24 hours notice of your impending death. Feeling sad and want to have a spectacular last day? There is an app (of course there is) that allows you to find someone else with the same End Day so that you can experience one last great adventure. This inclusive read features a queer relationship. Diverse themes and characters also led to my final two picks. Pride by Ibi Zoboi is a modern Pride & Prejudice telling set in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood with African-American characters. There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon is a body-positive Indian American teen romance story where Ashish and Sweetie struggle with the balance of meeting their parents’ traditional expectations and following their own dreams.
Showcasing diverse characters and voices also guided some of my choices here. My first pick is Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. An Arizona author, Bowling has a great message about kindness in her story of children seeking a “normal” life and friendships despite their disabilities. Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez is part of a mythology and folklore series produced by Rick Riordan to feature own voices. This one is based in Cuban traditions and myths. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is excellent World War II historical fiction for all ages. Ada and Jamie escape their cruel mother (trigger alert for child neglect and abuse) when they are evacuated from London to the country. It’s about bravery, second chances, and finding sanctuary. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart is a bit of a road trip adventure, but it is also about grief and figuring out how to move forward and hold onto memories.
I’m going to start with My Boyfriend Is a Bear, a graphic novel, by Pamela Ribon. Listen, even if you think you aren’t a graphic novel kind of person, you need to check this one out. It is a hilarious commentary on 21st century dating, and I giggled all the way through. Continuing to nudge you out of your comfort zone, I am going to suggest you try The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. It is the perfect read for those who grew up on Harry Potter. Our heroine, Rin has some of the same appealing characteristics - a misfit, underdog orphan with magical powers who surprises everyone and never quits. In this case, she receives the top score on a competitive test that gains her entrance to the most elite military academy in the land. With its backstabbing, competitive provinces, and war to control land and precious resources, there are also touches of Dune and Game of Thrones. Similarly, if you’ve read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, then you know he is able to write intriguing science fiction that is liked by those who normally don’t read this genre because they read like thrillers. Crouch has done it again this summer with Recursion about a strange disease affecting people’s memories. Along with the mystery and science fiction elements, you will find stories of families and love. Continuing with the thriller/suspense theme, pick up Force of Nature. Jane Harper is amazing with creating atmosphere with her remote Australian settings and then weaves in a quiet, but suspensful murder mystery. Added bonus - if you like this one, there are two more to pick up and read. I’m ending on a lighter note with Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. Even though it is set during World War II London blitz, its comedic moments outweigh the sad bits. Well-intended Emmy secretly hijacks Mrs. Bird’s advice column when she disagrees with her rules for responding to problems. With strong friendships and some romance, it covers all the bases you might want in a good summer read.
I picked another graphic novel because I’ve found that memoirs are a great way to get comfortable with this format because of the realism. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui is about a family’s escape from the Vietnam War in the 1970’s. If this topic doesn’t interest you, just know there are a ton of graphic memoirs with different styles and topics we could put in your hands. The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson is quirky and interesting true crime story that pulls you into the world of fly fish tying and people who are willing to pay big money for rare feathers. I am often a sucker for memoirs that are written as a series of loosely connected essays. Add some Southern charm, a potty mouth, and the ability to be relatable to readers, and you have I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott. I will end on a somber note with an important read: Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff. Written because Zuckoff discovered that this generation of college students have little awareness of these events, it is a detailed account of how the day unfolded. It is beautifully written and will break your heart as he humanizes many of the countless victims by sharing significant and mundane details of their lives leading up to that horrible day. It is also enlightening in understanding all the communication challenges and misunderstandings of the time.
18 Books I Loved Reading to My Son
As a parent and when it comes to Picture Books, it's wonderful to find ones you like since you'll be reading them over and over and over again. My son Jack LOVED reading and being read to from a young age, so we spent hours each day reading and rereading these wonderful books. Thanks to the amazing children's book authors for making these books so enjoyable for children and parents alike.
Jack's and my "Top 18" include:
The Antlered Ship by The Fan Brothers
"Is it better to know what's going to happen?" wondered Marco. "Or better to be surprised?"
Just One More by Jennifer Hanson Rolli
"and what's this? Just one more kiss?"
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
"The world is so big! I want to go see it, Daddy. You and me together."
The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico
After seven goblins try to steal it, the Rainbow is careful never again to touch the earth. - Penguin Random House
The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes. - Little Brown and Company
Herbert the Timid Dragon by Mercer Mayer
"Icky, sticky dragon soup-UHG!" cried the princess, and she threw it in his face.
Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy
Steam Train Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker
The team behind the #1 New York Times bestseller Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site returns with another fabulous book for bedtime! The dream train pulls into the station, and one by one the train cars are loaded: polar bears pack the reefer car with ice cream, elephants fill the tanker cars with paints, tortoises stock the auto rack with race cars, kangaroos stuff the hopper car with balls (while zebras referee). Sweet and silly dreams are guaranteed for any budding train enthusiasts! - Chronicle Books
Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen
When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the circus animals must stagger to the shore of a small island. At first the townspeople view them with suspicion, but it’s not long before locals and animals are sharing the island in harmony. Loosely based on a true historic event, The Circus Ship is a story about the bonds of friendship and community. - Chris Van Dusen
The Kissing hand by Audrey Penn
Here is the story of a little raccoon who confronts the first day of school and needs reassurance. Mother Raccoon finds an unforgettable way of communicating the message that everyone most needs to hear. The perfect book for any child taking the plunge into school, endearing illustrations are as soothing as the simple story.School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called “the Kissing Hand” to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. - Scholastic
In My Heart A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. With whimsical illustrations and an irresistible die-cut heart that extends through each spread, this unique feelings book is gorgeously packaged.
The Growing Hearts series celebrates the milestones of a toddler’s emotional development, from conquering fears and expressing feelings to welcoming a new sibling. - Abrams Publishing
Otis and the Kittens by Lauren Long
On the farm where Otis the tractor lives, it hasn't rained in a long time and farmers all over the valley have grown anxious with water in such short supply. One hot afternoon, when Otis and his friends are resting beneath the shade of the apple tree, Otis spots something moving down in the valley—an orange tabby cat headed straight for the old barn. But then Otis sees something else that causes his engine to sputter . . . a swirl of smoke coming from the same barn. A fire!
As Otis races toward the fire with his friends in tow, he spots the tabby cat mewing in alarm. Otis rushes inside to discover the source of the cat's worries--her little kittens are perched up on the hayloft, scared. Otis never hesitates. Yet even after he delivers a tractor full of kittens safely outside, their mama remains upset. Re-entering the burning barn, Otis discovers why: one tiny kitten, still too scared to move. With a friendly chuff, Otis coaxes her down and she scampers out the door. That's when the floor collapses with a CRASH, trapping the tractor. Now Otis, the friend everyone can count on, must count on his friends.
Told with a sense of play and devotion, this is a heartwarming tale that reminds readers that sometimes even those who we count on to help us need a little help themselves. From the creator of Otis, Otis and the Puppy, and the illustrator of The Little Engine That Could and Of Thee I Sing by President Barack Obama. - Penguin Random House
World on a String by Larry Phifer
"I miss you, friend," he whispered into the sky, "but I know your light was meant to fly."
Iggy Peck, Architect by Audrey Beaty
Some kids sculpt sand castles. Some make mud pies. Some construct great block towers. But none are better at building than Iggy Peck, who once erected a life-size replica of the Great Sphinx on his front lawn! It’s too bad that few people appreciate Iggy’s talent—certainly not his second-grade teacher, Miss Lila Greer. It looks as if Iggy will have to trade in his T square for a box of crayons . . . until a fateful field trip proves just how useful a mast builder can be. - Abrams
Outside by Deidre Gill
With a little snow and a lot of imagination, anything is possible in this wondrous book about a winter adventure. - Scholastic
The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell
Once upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the biggest, baddest monsters around. Then along came an even bigger monster who changed their minds. All it took were two little words. - Scholastic
Locomotive by Brian Floca
"The engine HUFFS and Hisses, the engine Bangs and Clanks! Metal rolls on metal and the Locomotive MOVES."
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller and sprouts leaves, some young beetles arrive to gander, and soon—with the help of a pill bug named Icky—they wrangle a ladder and build a tree fort. But this is the wild world, after all, and something horrible is waiting to swoop down—booby voobeck!—only to be carried off in turn. Su! With exquisitely detailed illustrations and tragicomic flair, Carson Ellis invites readers to imagine the dramatic possibilities to be found in even the humblest backyard. Su! - Penguin Random House
Max Brallier’s series Last Kids on Earth is on it’s way to Netflix and his latest book, Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade is publishing in September. We’re so excited!
Have you ever wanted to see your book If you pre-order his next book, your name will be included in the acknowledgements of the Midnight Blade. Oh, and you’ll also get some pretty cool slime and a bookplate signed just for you so you can place it in your book after it arrives with us!
A Cori and Lisa pick!
Holy smokes! Despite its relative brevity, Heller has delivered a beautiful, heartbreaking, and engrossing adventure. I was immersed from the beginning, and I devoured this in a day. This is one of those books that can be hard to describe what it’s about, but its use of multiple themes is what will make it appealing to a wide range of readers. At its simplest, it is a best friends adventure story. Jack and Wynn are on an epic canoe trip on the Maskwa River in northern Canada before they head back to college in the fall. Their leisurely journey quickly begins to go sideways with a forest fire moving their way and the mysterious behavior of the few people they encounter in this isolated area, the tension begins ratcheting up immediately. The thriller aspect will keep you turning the pages as you strive to sort out the confusion along with Wynn and Jack. On yet another level, the deep, rich descriptions of nature read like some of the best narrative nonfiction. In particular, the water and the fire reflect the ebbs and flows of the experience, both its beauty, danger, and constantly changing pace. - Cori
From Penguin Random House:
Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing. When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddling and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and reading paperback Westerns. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey. When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And, if he is, where is the woman? From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding story of desperate wilderness survival.
I was not ready for this one to end. In fact, I enjoyed the story and writing so much I found myself slowing down my normal reading pace to savor it more carefully as it unfolded. Quiet and lyrical, this book manages to create an amazing sense of place while also being character driven and introducing you to layered and interesting people that begin to feel like acquaintances and friends you know. In particular, late 90’s Portland is its own character. You develop a good sense of the scruffy and gritty city it used to be before it became the mecca for hipness and hipsters. But, the sense of place is carried expertly throughout the story as Johnson winds through the many locations in the west and midwest so that you can envision yourself there as she is describing them. The story itself could be described as many things including coming of age, LGBTQ, first loves and forever loves, and dysfunctional family (both the ones you are born with and those you chose). I don’t think it really matters which draws you in, and the reality is that these are all themes woven into our own lives in some capacity, which is probably what makes the story as a whole such a gift to us as readers. For me, I went to college and began the prolonged process of figuring myself as an adult at the same time as Andrea, so in some ways the time and cultural references were a flashback to some of my own adventures, confusion, and angst. The LGBTQ storyline did not feel like a manifesto or lesson, but yet introduced me to nuanced thoughts and ideas that I hope will help me continue to grow as a supportive and understanding friend to those in my life who have this as a central identity. - Cori
From Harper Collins:
A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.
All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .
Twenty-three-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.
A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.
A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.
Portrait of a Bookseller
Where are you originally from?
What is the best part of your job?
My awesome team! Meeting/Getting to know all of the locals that enjoy our bookshop.
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
Explore new places.
Recommend an author/book you think everybody should read:
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing books at Bright Side:
I just pick one place to start and see how far I can get before my arms are full.
Do you collect any particular types of books?
I collect children’s books, especially Dr. Seuss, Jan Brett, and Jody Bergsma
What’s your favorite book to give as a gift?
The Coyote Daily by Shreve Stockton
What book do you want to be written into?
The Autobiography of David Attenborough….I love David Attenborough.
What is your favorite opening/closing line of a book?
“The first time I drank piss was on a fire escape overlooking downtown Los Angeles.” NOFX The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories
Is there a book you reread annually?
What Now? by Ann Patchet
What would be the title of your autobiography?
“How to Argue with a Rabbit”
wHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECIEVED FROM A BOOK OR AUTHOR?
“In this life it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place” The Red Queen tells Alice in Lewis Carrols’s Through the Looking Glass. I have this line tattooed on my shoulder.
Cookbooks for the Summer!
I love all the seasons, but summer is my favorite flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin spice as much as the next millennial, but nothing beats a leftover picnic by the creek or a slice of fresh peach cobbler for breakfast. And who doesn't drool over the thought of breaking out the grill? Whether you’re avoiding the oven so you don’t overheat the house, or looking for the perfect recipe to use up all the veggies you bought at the farmers market, we have a cookbook for you.
Over Easy, by Joy Wilson: Summer Brunch Anyone? This book is the only guide you need for everything from breakfast cocktails to the perfect Hollandaise sauce for your eggs Benedict. It also has plenty you can make ahead to enjoy over the work week.
Eating from the Ground Up, by Alana Chernilla: “Here are dishes so simple and quick that they feel more intuitive than following a typical recipe. Soups for year-round that are packed with nourishment, and ideas for maximizing summer produce” - BOTB. This book will take you way beyond a basic salad.
Outlandish, by Morgan Sjogren: This book will have you plotting your next camping adventure, as well as the meals to go with it. An awesome summer read set all over the Southwest, with easy no-fuss recipes to fuel even the most extreme adventures. They also make for great home recipes when you don’t want to turn anything on in your kitchen.
Pie in the Sky, by Susan G. Purdy: I avoid using my oven as much as possible in the summer, but with Flagstaff’s cooler evenings and this high-altitude baking guide, staying up a little later to eat a fresh baked pastry is well worth it.
The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book, by Loren Bouchard and Cole Bowden: For the pun-loving grill master, this book has everything you need to make your BBQ guests cringe from punny jokes and groan from delicious food.
Dirty Gourmet, by Aimee Trudeau, Emily Nielson, and Mai-yan Kwan: Perfect for the car camper or road tripper, this cookbook goes way beyond the hot dog on a stick. It will also teach you how to cook evenly on an open fire with anything from cast-iron to foil.
“This coming of age story set in Ireland is about an on and off again couple, Marianne and Connell, starting with high school and moving through their university years. On one level, this could be solely seen as the “will they or won’t they” story of their relationship. Even though filled with complications and miscommunications, they continually return to each other as either friends or lovers. On a deeper level, this story explores pretensions and power differentials based on wealth and class differences. With constantly shifting sands, they navigate peer pressure and power dynamics while trying to manage their insecurities and find the courage to live their dreams and ideals.”
Soon to be a Hulu original in 2020, get ahead of the crowd and read this before the show starts!
From Penguin Random House:
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.
“I picked this one up because of its setting (a college campus), and the premise (four years of friendship that ends with a death). What I ended up with was something more nuanced and much darker than I imagined. Brockman is spot on with her descriptions of modern college life and student hi-jinks at an elite college in a small town. She also captures the nuances and dysfunction of college friendships that change and fragment over time as this group of six begins keeps secrets from each other and start growing apart. From the beginning, we know our narrator, Malin is hiding secrets from her past and there is something about her that seems just a bit off, giving us a touch of the unreliable narrator vibe. The fragmented structure that moves between their freshman year, Senior Day, and different points in Malin’s childhood leaves you unsettled and disoriented as the book quietly unfolds. Despite a smart trail of breadcrumbs, I did not anticipate the ending. And I can’t really say much more because I will ruin the twists and turns that make this so fascinating. I really need someone to read this so we can talk about it. “
From Penguin Random House:
“In her first weeks at Hawthorne College, Malin is swept up into a tight-knit circle that will stick together through all four years. There’s Gemma, an insecure theater major from London; John, a tall, handsome, wealthy New Englander; Max, John’s cousin, a shy pre-med major; Khaled, a wisecracking prince from Abu Dhabi; and Ruby, a beautiful art history major. But Malin isn’t like the rest of her friends. She’s an expert at hiding her troubled past. She acts as if she shares the preoccupations of those around her—dating, partying—all while using her extraordinary insight to detect their deepest vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
By Senior Day, on the cusp of graduation, Malin’s secrets—and those of her friends—are revealed. While she scrambles to maintain her artfully curated image, her missteps set in motion a devastating chain of events that ends in a murder. And as fragile relationships hang in the balance and close alliances shift, Malin must test the limits of what she’s capable of to stop the truth from coming out.
In a mesmerizing novel that peels back the innumerable layers of a seductive protagonist, debut author Cambria Brockman brings to life an entrancing story of friendship, heartbreak, and betrayal.”
A Word from Cori:
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about trees. In part, I think it is the time of year. One of the most joyous experiences is watching the transformation of trees in the spring and early summer as they wake from their winter sleep and bring all shades of green back to our world. Riding through a brilliant avenue of green as I go home at the end of the day always begins pulling me into a state of calm and relaxation. As we slip into summer, I am also anticipating taking my hammock out into the forest with a stack of books and reading while listening to the wind whisper through the branches and leaves. They are such a huge life giving force in our world and exist just about everywhere in the world. So, perhaps it is not surprising that they are surfacing regularly as a topic or character in the books I’ve been reading and finding. I wanted to share my thoughts and discoveries so you can add to your own TBR (To Be Read) List. You might be thinking to yourself, “I only read fiction (non-fiction).” Okay, I get it. But, I highly recommend you stretch yourself a bit and explore something outside of your usual comfort zone.
Peter Wholleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate was transformative for me. There’s a reason this science based book is a bestseller. Wohlleben writes in a conversational way that makes plant botany approachable and fascinating. After reading this one, you will begin to see trees as communities instead of individual organisms. It is filled with beautiful drawings, and each essay can be a stand alone read. In fact, I would recommend taking your time with this one to allow information to be absorbed.
In Search of The Canary Tree by Lauren E. Oakes references the idea of the canary in the coal mine which was intended to warn miners of the increase in toxic gas. Oakes, a conservation scientist, heads to Alaska to study the tree equivalent for climate change, the yellow-cedar. Weaving together others’ research and her field experience in Alaska, she creates an interesting and relatable narrative about one of our most pressing world issues.
There are some crazy (and maybe brave) people in the world who like to climb really tall trees for a living. I cannot even imagine embarking on such adventures, but I sure do like reading about other people doing it! The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston was an excellent page turner that is both character driven and filled my head with cool information. This was the perfect fusion of nature writing and biography. Preston’s character development is spot on as he introduces you to Marie, Steve, and Michael and shares their journey up to the point where there lives intersect and when he met them. With a story about scientists and tree climbers going to the top of 30 feet story California coastal redwoods, you should anticipate some scary and tense moments. Multiple times, I found myself holding my breath and anxious about what was to happen next. Amongst their stories, you receive a fascinating and intricate botany lesson about the amazing and minimally explored ecosystems that exist hidden in the canopies of these majestic trees. If you still need to understand why people climb trees, James Aldred wrote The Man Who Climbs Trees: The Lofty Adventures of a Wildlife Cameraman as a memoir about his experiences. This one provides you a behind the scenes peek at how someone gets those amazing pictures of wild animals and birds in their natural habitat and describing his tree climbing experiences.
Annie Proulx’s Barkskins is a commitment at 717 pages. However, it was highly recommended to me by someone whose taste I trust. Set in North America, this is a sweeping historical novel that begins in the late 17th century and ends in 2013. “Barkskins” was a name for the wood cutters that early logging companies hired to clear the trees in this newly claimed world. This is a look at where colonization and deforestation has lead us to today. Currently, The Overstory by Richard Powers is getting all the buzz and has been hanging out on bestseller lists for weeks. In some ways, it has some similarities with Barkskins as a multigenerational saga and a story about the interactions between humans and the natural world. With a more experimental structure, Story introduces nine characters who have a connection in some way to trees. Their stories are nested amongst each other and progress through the book. A Pulitzer Prize winner, it seems readers either love the structure or hate it.
If you would like something a bit lighter and easier to follow, I will wrap up my recommendations with one of my top 2019 reads. Yes, we are only half way through, but I am confident it will still be on my list on December 31. Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane is absolutely enchanting. Trees are a secondary, but significant character in this book. Our protagonist, May Attaway, is employed as a university gardner. A graduate writes an award winning poem about a yew tree that May planted. The university awards May for her role in this by giving her a month of paid leave to use however she likes. She decides to begin a quest to understand what friendship means for her, how to be a better friend, and reconnect with the four people she has identified as her closest friends. May asks herself, what would have happened if The Odyssey’s Penelope had left? What kind of traveler, friend and guest would she be? Armed with hostess gifts, Emily Post’s guide to etiquette, and Grendel (her suitcase), May takes us on a journey that will fill your heart and make you laugh as she shares her funny, awkward, and mostly spot-on observations about 21st century connections and friendships. Additionally, her widowed father periodically leaves her sheets about different trees accompanied by gorgeous drawings by Edward Carey. The trees seem to serve as a way for him to both communicate information to May as well as suggest ideas for which tree to plant in memoriam after his death.
June is Pride Month! Celebrate with good reads and good people. Check out this list put together by some of your favorite booksellers just for you.
Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.
by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge & Joy San
When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage. From TEE FRANKLIN (NAILBITER’s “THE OUTFIT,” Love is Love) and JENN ST-ONGE (Jem & The Misfits), BINGO LOVE is a touching story of love, family, and resiliency that spans over 60 years.
Stone Wall: Breaking out In the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
Ann Bausum’s riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national Gay Rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring.
Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu
Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jack—his very attractive but moody captain.
A collection of the first half, freshmen and sophomore year, of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life
The the Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents' expectations, but lately she's finding that impossible to do. She rolls her eyes when they blatantly favor her brother, and saves her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don't know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana's plans fall apart.
Her parents are devastated and decide to whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Through reading her grandmother's old diary, Rukhsana gains some much-needed perspective and realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love without losing the connection to her family as a consequence.
George by Alex Gino
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.
George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, really wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part because she's a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte, but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music by Darryl Bullock
Darryl W. Bullock reveals the stories of both famous and lesser-known LGBT musicians, whose perseverance against the threat of persecution during decades of political and historical turmoil—including two world wars, Stonewall, and the AIDS crisis—has led to some of the most significant and soul-searching music of the last century. Bullock chronicles these struggles through new interviews and archival reports, dating from the birth of jazz in the red-light district of New Orleans, through the rock ‘n' roll years, Swinging Sixties, and disco days of the '70s, right up to modern pop, electronica, and reggae. An entertaining treasure-trove of untold history for all music lovers, David Bowie Made Me Gay is an inspiring, nostalgic, and provocative story of right to be heard and the need to keep the fight for equality in the spotlight.
Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by Alan Downs
In The Velvet Rage, psychologist Alan Downs draws on his own struggle with shame and anger, contemporary research, and stories from his patients to passionately describe the stages of a gay man’s journey out of shame and offers practical and inspired strategies to stop the cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior. The Velvet Rage is an empowering book that has already changed the public discourse on gay culture and helped shape the identity of an entire generation of gay men.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
A graphic memoir
For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. Skating was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion—and she finally needed to find her own voice.
L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz
When David Lebovitz began the project of updating his apartment in his adopted home city, he never imagined he would encounter so much inexplicable red tape while contending with perplexing work ethic and hours. Lebovitz maintains his distinctive sense of humor with the help of his partner Romain, peppering this renovation story with recipes from his Paris kitchen. In the midst of it all, he reveals the adventure that accompanies carving out a place for yourself in a foreign country—under baffling conditions—while never losing sight of the magic that inspired him to move to the City of Light many years ago, and to truly make his home there.
The Binding by Bridget Collins
An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.
We the Animals by Justin Torres
Three brothers tear their way through childhood — smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn — he's Puerto Rican, she's white — and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.
Life in this home is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense family unity that surrounds a child to the resilience and permanence of brotherhood to the profound alienation a young man endures as he begins to see himself in the world, this novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sucker-punch powerful. It leaves us reminded that our madness is both caused by, and alleviated by, our families, and that we might not reconcile who we are with who our loved ones see, or who we want to be for them.
Written in magical language with unforgettable images, We the Animals is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
Check out these other picks that we recommend!
The Big Book of Less, a FLOW book by Astrid Van Der Hulst and Irene Smit is my new favorite "Life De-clutterer". It covers everything from clearing out your house to limiting your social media intake. One of my favorite chapters was about how to clean up your schedule, and just DO less! (Complete with a guide to Dot journaling and a beautiful practice poster) Like all Flow books it comes with an abundance of paper goodies inside, and articles from a variety of authors. There is even a pop-out mini-house with accessories so you can visualize what your life could be like in a smaller space. Its basically an activity book for adults, and I love it. “
From Workman Publishing:
“From Flow, a beautiful, mindful guide to having less stuff. Less stress. Less distraction. Less everything.
In less comes the freedom of letting go. This thoughtful and surprising book shows us how to get there, by paring down not just the jumble of things around us, but the clutter in our heads, too. And to help, interact with special paper goodies, including a one-thought-a-day diary, a foldout tiny house to let you imagine the pleasures of living in a small and cozy space, and art posters that depict a beautiful picture of what it means to do less, not more.
Paper goodies from The Big Book of Less include:
A dot journal poster
4 art posters
1 foldout tiny house with 20 accessories
And even more hidden treasures
Decluttering your life and mind makes room for more—more listening, more focus, more wisdom, more time. More life.”
“100 percent worth the buzz. Entranced from beginning to end. Reid's use of an interview format is perfect and ingenious for exploring the rise and fall of an imaginary 1970's rock band. It allows for an in- depth and realistic look at the complicated group dynamics and varying perceptions and memories of each person regarding each other and during key moments and interactions. “
From Penguin Random House:
“Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.”
I recently finished The Guest Book by Sarah Blake published in early May by St. Martin’s Press.
Prepare to be a guest in this book as Blake weaves you through three generations of the Milton family lives that revolve and center around an island off of the Maine coast. This book begins during the period between WWI and WWII and concludes in the present day. I found Blake’s rich storytelling mirroring many of the same social, racial, prejudice and privileged issues that we are still currently struggling with today. Even though this is a work of fiction, I found myself asking "what has history taught us" and realizing that we as a society still have so much to learn. This is a great summer read capturing all of the components that readers love - loss, family secrets, history and much more. Once you are done reading, you feel like you can sign your own name in the Milton guest book having taken the journey with the family for three generations.
“A lifetime of secrets. A history untold.
No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.
In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.
So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.
Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.”
An intriguing middle reader that will appeal to all ages. Cat has gotten used to taking care of her brother, Chicken, who is likely on the spectrum of Autism. So much so, that Cat feels like she isn't allowed to be a kid herself sometimes. The summer they spend with their once estranged grandparents on Gingerbread Island will change everything. I love reading middle readers because it is fascinating to see the world through a child's eyes.
“This beautifully written, emotional debut perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt or Ali Benjamin tells the story a girl, her special needs brother, and the summer they will never forget.
"An engaging, honest book." --Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor-winning author of The War That Saved My Life
"A beautiful story of family, forgiveness, life on an island, and growing up.”--Kate Messner, author of Breakout and The Seventh Wish
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.
But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes. “