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Posts Tagged ‘middle grade’

We’ve made it to the end of May – with a serious dose of heavy headline news, lately. I am doing my best to stay engaged, but escaping into books when I need to. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Many Meanings of Meilan, Andrea Wang
I found this wonderful middle-grade novel at the library and read it in one sitting. It follows Meilan Hua as she moves from Boston’s Chinatown to small-town Ohio with her parents and grandfather, in the wake of a family feud following her grandmother’s death. Unsurprisingly, she struggles to adjust and fit in, but she uses the different meanings of her name to find creative ways to cope. Beautifully written and so compelling and vivid – I loved it.

The Suite Spot, Trish Doller
I loved Doller’s adult debut, Float Plan, which I read in 2020 (I interviewed her, too). This novel follows Rachel Beck (sister of Anna from Float Plan) as she and her young daughter move to a remote island in Lake Erie so Rachel can take a new job. Rachel’s new boss, a hotel owner/beer brewer, is struggling with his own losses but they find themselves becoming friends, then something more. A sweet, relatable story with some swoony romance moments; I loved Rachel’s new friends, too.

Across the Pond, Joy McCullough
After a friendship disaster back home in San Diego, Callie is thrilled to be moving with her family to Scotland. But when she gets there, she finds herself petrified of making new friends, until a friendly librarian, a prickly neighbor and a local birding club help her out. A sweet middle-grade story of finding new friends/interests and learning how to keep going.

One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
When Katy Silver’s mother dies, she is distraught: not even sure she can stay in her marriage anymore. On a trip to Positano, Italy (which was supposed to be a mother-daughter trip), Katy – unbelievably – encounters her mother in the flesh: young, vibrant and full of life. A lovely time-travel story about love and grief, letting go, and taking ownership of your own life. (I loved Serle’s The Dinner List, too.)

Tokyo Ever After, Emiko Jean
Raised by a strong, loving single mom, Izumi “Izzy” Tanaka has always wondered about her mysterious dad. When she finds out he’s the Crown Prince of Japan, she’s whisked away for a crash course in royal behavior and (maybe) a chance to find out if Japan is where she belongs. A funny, modern YA fairy tale; think Princess Diaries goes to Japan with thoughtful commentary on race and family.

The Frangipani Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
My friend Jess’ Instagram book club prompted me to pick up this book, set in 1930s Singapore. The narrator, Chen Su Lin, steps in as temporary governess to a mentally disabled teenage girl after her Irish governess dies under mysterious circumstances. Working (mostly) undercover with the local inspector, Su Lin attempts to solve the mystery and carve a path for herself in a rigid society. Charming and so interesting – first in a series and I’ll definitely read more.

The Swallowtail Legacy: Wreck at Ada’s Reef, Michael D. Beil
Prickly, athletic Lark Heron-Finch has been struggling since her mom died. When she goes back to their family’s vacation home with her sister, stepdad and stepbrothers, she uncovers a local mystery that could have serious present-day implications. I loved this middle-grade adventure that sensitively deals with grief and hard emotions; Pip, Lark’s younger sister, and Nadine, her friend/mentor, are especially wonderful.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett
I’ve been rereading Micha’s lovely book slowly, as she’s running a Zoom book club to celebrate its 8th anniversary. It traces her attempts at contemplative prayer as she adjusts to being a mother. Warm, wise, honest and lyrical; so many things resonated even more this time around.

Maame, Jessica George
George’s debut novel Madeleine “Maddie” Wright, a young Ghanaian-British woman living in London and caring for her dad, who has Parkinson’s disease. Maame (Maddie’s nickname) traces her attempts to find some independence, assert herself at work, deal with microaggressions, dip into online dating and figure out who she wants to be. Often sad; sometimes wryly funny. I was rooting for Maddie to find some happiness. To review for Shelf Awareness (out in Feb. 2023).

The Heart of Summer, Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Hayes-McCoy returns to Lissbeg, Ireland, to her cast of warmhearted characters and their daily lives. This time, librarian Hanna Casey takes a holiday to London, which prompts some serious self-reflection; newlyweds Aideen and Conor navigate farm life; and local builder Fury O’Shea has a finger in every pie, as always. So charming and comforting. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 5).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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We are (nearly) halfway through April, approaching Marathon Monday, and smack in the middle of cherry blossom season. Here’s what I have been reading:

Freedom is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World, Zainab Salbi
Salbi is a well-known activist for women’s rights, but she spent years hiding from her own fears and insecurities. This memoir charts her journey through relationships, body image struggles, professional and other challenges, toward a more peaceful, holistic vision of herself. Reading about her divorce was particularly striking to me; some other moments fell rather flat. Found at Bluestocking Books in San Diego.

Five Things About Ava Andrews, Margaret Dilloway
Ava Andrews has lots of ideas – but her anxiety often prevents her from speaking up. She also has a heart condition. When her best friend moves away, Ava pushes herself to try an improv class and a few other new things, with surprising results. A sweet, funny middle-grade novel with a realistic picture of invisible disabilities. Found at the Book Catapult.

The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams
Esme Nicoll, motherless child of a lexicographer, spends her childhood in the Scriptorium – a garden shed in Oxford where James Murray and his team of assistants are compiling words for the Oxford English Dictionary. As Esme grows up, she begins to collect words that have been left out – mostly words used by women and working-class folks. I loved this fiercely feminist, gorgeous novel set in my beloved Oxford. Recommended by my (also fiercely feminist, gorgeous) friend Shanna.

Reading the Water: Fly Fishing, Fatherhood, and Finding Strength in Nature, Mark Hume
Hume has loved to fly fish since he was a boy in rural Canada. This lyrical, thoughtful memoir traces his fishing journey through the years, and how he has passed the love of fly fishing and the natural world on to his new daughters. Quiet, moving and lovely. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 10).

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead, Elle Cosimano
After pulling off a hit job almost by accident, Finlay Donovan is trying to catch her breath, prep for the holidays and work on her new novel. But some suspicious posts on an online forum have her convinced someone is trying to off her ex-husband – and the forum might be connected to a certain Russian mobster. A fun, fast-paced follow-up to Finlay Donovan is Killing It; I can’t wait for more adventures from Finlay and her nanny/accountant/partner-in-crime, Vero.

A Natural History of Now: Notes from the Edge of Nature, ed. Sara J. Call and Jennifer Li-Yen Douglass
I picked up this weird little collection for $4 at Bookmans in Tucson – the price and the blurb from the late, great Brian Doyle sold me. It’s an odd, often startling, sometimes beautiful group of essays (and two short stories) mostly set in the American West. Some gross, some gorgeous, all surprising.

The Year of Miracles: Recipes About Love + Grief + Growing Things, Ella Risbridger
I found this sweet memoir-cookbook both healing and heartbreaking; Risbridger’s partner, Jim, died a few years ago and she writes about grief, building a new life, cooking for and with her new housemate, and how that all shifted during 2020. The recipes are a mix of simple and fiddly, but all are for home cooks with plenty of side notes. My grief is different than Risbridger’s, but I still often felt seen by her words. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 26).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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How is it March already? There’s still snow on the ground (so much snow!) but we are heading for spring. Here’s my last slew of February books:

Love & Saffron, Kim Fay
My friend Louise raved about this book and she wasn’t wrong – it’s a charming epistolary novel of a friendship between two women who love food. (Shades of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto!) I picked it up at the Book Catapult and savored its gentle, witty prose and tasty food descriptions.

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times: Stories, Meron Hadero
I don’t usually read short stories – but this collection, centered on the experiences of Ethiopians in their home country and the U.S., was sharply observed and fascinating. Hadero sensitively explores the challenges of assimilating, navigating race in the U.S. – or scratching out a living at home. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 10).

Lost and Found in Paris, Lian Dolan
After her marriage implodes, Joan Bright Blakely hops a plane to Paris as an art courier, transporting some valuable sketches. But after a lovely night with a new man, she wakes to find the sketches gone – and a sketch by her deceased artist father in their place. A warmhearted, compelling novel about family, loss, art and new beginnings. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 5).

Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion, R.A. Spratt
Girl detective Friday Barnes is arrested on unclear charges – then she retrieves a valuable bracelet, makes friends with an ex-con and tries to solve various mysteries on campus at her boarding school. A zany middle-grade mystery with likable characters. Found at the Mysterious Bookshop.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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I know we’re only a week into February, but I’ve already read a slew of great books (including on a snow day and a cross-country flight). Here’s what I have been reading:

Love, Lists and Fancy Ships, Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Jo Walker, yacht stewardess, has struggled to keep going since the death of her young nephew. But the surprise arrival of her two teenage nieces for the summer – plus a kind, handsome new neighbor/coworker and his daughter – forces her to get out and knock a few items off her 30-before-30 bucket list. Loved this funny, sweet novel.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee
We tend to think of joy as an intangible, elusive emotion – but it can be enhanced, even engendered, by physical objects and patterns in the physical world. A fun, informative look at 10 different aesthetics of joy – natural and human-made. Recommended by Anne and others.

Some of It Was Real, Nan Fischer
Sylvie is a psychic on the brink of stardom who isn’t quite sure she believes in her own abilities. Thomas is a journalist who’s determined to expose her as a fraud. As they go on a road trip to delve into Sylvie’s past, they both are forced to examine some serious grief and other emotions, including how they feel about each other. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 22).

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Kate O’Shaughnessy
Maybelle Lane dreams of a singing career – and when she finds out the daddy she’s never met is judging a singing contest, she schemes her way to Nashville, in the company of a no-nonsense neighbor woman and her maybe-friend, the boy next door. A sweet middle-grade story about loneliness and how you choose to build a family.

Just the Two of Us, Jo Wilde
Julie and Michael have been married for nearly 35 years – but their relationship has gone seriously sour. When they’re forced to isolate together in their home in March 2020, they start to wonder if they can find their way back to each other. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a “light” pandemic novel, but this was a lovely exploration of family and the ups and downs of a long marriage. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 12).

Shoutin’ in the Fire, Dante Stewart
I follow Stewart on Twitter and Instagram – he writes powerfully about being Black, Christian and American. This memoir delves deeper into his own experiences and how he has grappled with anti-Blackness in various contexts (including in himself). He’s a force and this is a message we all need.

The Wicked Widow, Beatriz Williams
I love Williams’ lush, compelling historical fiction. This novel is the third featuring Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a scrappy redhead who gets caught up with a major bootlegging racket during Prohibition, and her connection to the blue-blooded Schuyler family. Heartbreaking and juicy and so good.

A Place to Hang the Moon, Kate Albus
William always tells his younger siblings that their mum thought they “hung the moon.” But when the children – long since orphaned – are forced to evacuate during World War II, clinging to those memories becomes tougher. A sweet (if often sad) story about family, love and the power of good stories.

Every Living Thing, James Herriot
It’s no secret I love Herriot’s books and the new PBS adaptation based closely on them. I found this later volume at the wonderful Dogtown Books in Gloucester (a happy surprise!) and have been savoring it slowly. Funny and vivid and comforting.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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We are (nearly) through a very cold January, and post-omicron, here’s what I have been reading:

Kisses and Croissants, Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
Mia is convinced it’s her destiny to be a ballerina – especially since family legend has it her ancestor was painted by Degas. A summer program in Paris teaches her a few things about dedication, friendship, the stories we tell ourselves – and romance with a cute French boy. Fluffy and sweet – perfect isolation reading.

Our Wild Farming Life: Adventures on a Scottish Highland Croft, Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer
I loved this memoir of two women who fell in love with a big piece of land in rural Scotland, and are pursuing their dream of a small-scale sustainable farm. A bit too much technical detail in the middle, but mostly a warm, fascinating account of the life they’ve built. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 10).

Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci
I love Tucci’s film work (who doesn’t?) and was keen to read this memoir after hearing Anne and others recommend it. (I kept picturing him as Paul Child from Julie & Julia.) He’s definitely more of a storyteller than a writer, but this is an engaging account of his encounters with food throughout his life (plus recipes).

Blanche on the Lam, Barbara Neely
Domestic worker Blanche White goes to court for bad checks (not her fault!) – and ends up hiding out in the country, working as a maid for a wealthy family with secrets. I’d read the sequel to this one, but it was fun to read Blanche’s first adventure. Sharp and sobering.

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts, Annie Darling
Posy Morland isn’t great at adulting, though she manages to care for herself and her teenage brother Sam. But when Posy inherits the bookshop where she works and decides to turn it into a romance bookshop, she’s faced with all sorts of new challenges. A fun, fluffy British story – I’d read one of the sequels, so I knew the characters. I found Posy rather irritating, but this was good bedtime reading.

Strange Birds: A Guide to Ruffling Feathers, Celia C. Perez
I loved Perez’s debut so much that I picked this, her second novel, up at the library. Ofelia, Cat, Aster and Lane are four oddballs who form a secret club/Scout troop one summer in their small Florida town. A funny, thoughtful story of friendship and standing up for what you believe in. I love seeing more multiracial casts of characters in middle-grade novels.

The Joy of Small Things, Hannah Jane Parkinson
I picked up this essay collection at the wonderful Three Lives in NYC. Parkinson writes a column for The Guardian on small delights, and many of those columns are collected here. Perfect January cheer.

The Reading List, Sara Nisha Adams
Mukesh is a lonely widower living in west London. Aleisha is a teenager reluctantly spending her summer working at the local library. Through a handwritten reading list, the two (and a handful of other characters) form unexpected connections. This was so lovely – both joyful and sad, lots of depth, and wonderful characters. I loved Mukesh’s relationships with his daughters and granddaughter.

Room to Dream, Kelly Yang
Mia Tang is going back to China to visit family and she can’t wait! But once she’s there, she realizes how much has changed – in the country and in herself – since she immigrated to the U.S. Back home, she’s facing challenges at school and with her parents’ motel. I loved this spunky third installment in Yang’s series, and I especially loved watching Mia grow as a writer and a person.

Majesty, Katharine McGee
Beatrice Washington is America’s first (young!) queen after the death of her father. As she tries to figure out how to rule, she’s also planning a wedding – and relationships are getting complicated for her sister Sam and their friends, too. A deliciously scandalous sequel to American Royals, with some real insight on confidence and what it means to truly love someone.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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Here we are at the end of this strange, long year. I may have more to say about 2021 soon, but for now, I wish you a gentle transition into 2022. Here’s what I have been reading:

25 Days ‘Til Christmas, Poppy Alexander
This was an impulse buy at the Trident in 2019, and I loved it just as much this time. Widowed mum Kate is barely making ends meet with her job selling Christmas trees, while Daniel is struggling after the death of his sister. They meet, become friends (and maybe something more) and help each other figure out how to move forward. Sweet, witty and heartwarming.

Swimming with Seals, Victoria Whitworth
I found this at the Booksmith a while back and have been reading it sloooowly over breakfast. Whitworth is an archaeologist and cold-weather swimmer who chronicles her swims on Orkney, along with musings on the island’s ancient cultures, her relationship with her mother, and humankind’s relationship to the sea. It dragged a bit at times but the writing is lovely – so many good sentences.

Peach Blossom Spring, Melissa Fu
As the Japanese army advances through China, a young woman named Meilin flees with her son, Renshu, and their family. This absorbing novel tells their family’s story: Meilin’s constant efforts to keep Renshu safe and happy; his eventual emigration to the U.S.; and the life he builds there as a scientist and a father. Thoughtful and vividly described; a haunting tribute to immigrant families and being caught between worlds. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 15).

All I Want for Christmas, Wendy Loggia
Bailey Briggs, Christmas fanatic, can’t wait for the holiday – but she wants to kiss someone under the mistletoe. This YA rom-com features plenty of cheer, though the plot is a little thin. Still fun – Bailey works in a bookstore, and her friends and family are sweet. Found at the charming Book Shop of Beverly Farms and saved for this season.

Marvelous Manhattan, Reggie Nadelson
I picked up this collection at the wonderful Three Lives (my favorite NYC bookstore, which is featured!) in August, and have been sloooowly reading it since. Nadelson gives an insider’s tour, peppered with history (some of it personal), cultural commentary and yummy food descriptions. I want to try a lot of these places. Mouthwatering and enjoyable.

The Body in the Garden, Katharine Schellman
English widow Lily Adler is trying to figure out what to do with herself after her husband’s death – and stumbles (literally) on a dead body. I enjoyed this first outing in Lily’s adventures; the Regency London details are fun and I like Lily herself and the other characters. (I read the sequel, Silence in the Library, earlier this fall.)

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
It’s 12 days before Christmas and Lily’s holiday spirit has all but disappeared – so Dash hatches a scheme with Lily’s brother, Langston, to bring back the cheer. I loved this sequel to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – sweet, funny, full of NYC Christmas magic, and a sensitive exploration of how the holidays can be tough when you’re struggling, for whatever reason.

The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams, Mindy Thompson
Poppy Fulbright adores her family’s magical bookshop, Rhyme and Reason – she feels safe there. But strange things start happening when her brother’s best friend is killed in the war and her father falls ill. A bookish middle-grade fantasy novel with an engaging protagonist.

Intimations, Zadie Smith
I heard about Smith’s pandemic essay collection a while ago, but I wasn’t ready for it then. But I picked it up at the delightful Crow Bookshop in Vermont this week and read the essays in one sitting. I think she does tiny details – tulips in a New York City garden, the small encounters in “Screengrabs” – better than high philosophy. But she also writes well about love and work and isolation.

The Last Chance LibraryFreya Sampson
Shy librarian June Jones has rarely left her home village or tried anything new – especially since her mother’s death, eight years ago. But when June’s beloved library is threatened with closure, June joins a ragtag group of protesters fighting to keep it open. An engaging British story about a woman finding her own voice and (of course) the power of libraries. Found, fittingly, at the BPL.

These Precious Days, Ann Patchett
Patchett needs no introduction from me. I picked up her new essay collection at my beloved Three Lives in NYC. These warm, wise, tender essays explore friendship, marriage, dogs, her relationship with her father (and father figures), her love of literature and so much more. A perfect book to end the year.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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We’re into December already (and recovering from a doubleheader at work – Giving Tuesday and our 30th anniversary gala/fundraiser on the same day!). Here’s what I have been reading:

I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home, Jami Attenberg
I have yet to read Attenberg’s fiction, but I love her newsletter on writing and life. This memoir-in-essays follows her as she learns to be a writer, travels the world, wrestles with sexism and her sense of self, and visits various haunted locales. She is clever, funny and honest. I am not sure there’s much of an arc here, but I enjoyed spending time with Attenberg as a narrator. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 11).

A Lethal Lesson, Iona Whishaw
When Lane Winslow finds her town’s local schoolchildren without a teacher – one teacher has been attacked, and the other one has disappeared – she signs on as a temporary substitute while also trying to solve the case. This eighth entry also finds Lane and Inspector Darling navigating newlywed life. I love this series – so insightful and with a great cast of characters.

Our Woman in Moscow, Beatriz Williams
Twin sisters Ruth and Iris Macallister were always inseparable – until a heartbreaking parting in Rome in 1940. Then Ruth gets a postcard from Iris in 1952, four years after Iris and her family disappeared from their flat in London. Ruth, naturally, heads straight to Europe to rescue her sister from whatever trouble she’s in. I love Williams’ twisty, elegant fiction populated by strong women and the (usually dapper) men who love them. This was great Thanksgiving break reading.

A Soft Place to Land, Janae Marks
When Joy Taylor’s dad loses his job, her family has to move into a small apartment and Joy can’t take piano lessons anymore. But she makes new friends in her new building. I didn’t love this one quite as much as Marks’ debut, but this is a sweet middle-grade story about family and friendship and dealing with change.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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October is flying, y’all. Between work, running, a visit from a dear friend and a bit of travel, I’m hanging on (and loving it). Here’s what I have been reading:

Merci Suarez Can’t Dance, Meg Medina
Seventh grade is a whole new set of challenges for Merci Suarez, including taking photos at the school dance, becoming friends with a boy, and learning how to navigate tricky friendships. I love Merci and her big multigenerational family.

The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish, Karina Yan Glaser
The Vanderbeekers are making all kinds of plans for Papa’s 40th birthday – but then he’s called out of town and their difficult grandparents show up. A warmhearted installment in this lovely series about a big, happy biracial family in Harlem.

Sunrise by the Sea, Jenny Colgan
Reeling after the death of her grandfather, Marisa Rossi moves to a tiny village in Cornwall – and discovers a new community, much to her surprise. I loved this sweet story in a familiar setting with some charming new characters.

Incense and Sensibility, Sonali Dev
Gubernatorial candidate Yash Raje is famous for his focus and drive. But after his bodyguard is shot at a rally, he starts struggling with anxiety and burnout. India Dashwood, a family friend and yoga therapist, is the perfect person to help him – except they’ve got a history no one knows about. A fun installment in Dev’s updated Indian-American Austen-twist series; I like Yash’s big, loving, dramatic family.

One Night Two Souls Went Walking, Ellen Cooney
A young interfaith chaplain makes the rounds at her hospital, accompanied by a dog who may or may not be real. I love Cooney’s lyrical writing, but wanted a bit more from the ending of this one.

Honor, Thrity Umrigar
Journalist Smita Agarwal gets a call from a friend and colleague who’s been injured. She needs Smita to pick up a story: a court case brought by a woman named Meena against her two brothers, who killed Meena’s Muslim husband. Umrigar thoughtfully handles a brutal subject matter – not just honor killings, but the religious and cultural divisions in India, intertwined with Smita’s own painful memories of leaving the country at 14. Heavy, but insightful and page-turning. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 4).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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Suddenly October is upon us – I can’t believe it’s today. The leaves are starting to turn, and Trader Joe’s looks like a pumpkin factory exploded. I have been raiding the middle-grade section at the library, and here’s the latest list:

Tune it Out, Jamie Sumner
Lou Montgomery has a powerful singing voice – but she hates crowds, loud noises and uncertain situations. When a car accident separates Lou from her mom for a bit, she meets some new folks who help her name and address her struggles. A sweet middle-grade novel – well done, but it made me so sad for Lou and her mom.

Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York, Elizabeth Passarella
I loved every page of this memoir-cum-reflection on being a Southerner in Manhattan, and other complicated identities. Passarella is from Memphis; she’s around my age and I laughed out loud at a lot of her adventures, and related to most of them. Funny, smart and warm.

Summer at Meadow Wood, Amy Rebecca Tan
Vic Brown is (reluctantly) spending her summer at camp while her home life is falling apart. Despite her resistance, she ends up enjoying it: working on the camp farm, being “big sister” to a precocious seven-year-old, and learning a few things about herself (and Eleanor Roosevelt). Loved this one.

Every Missing Piece, Melanie Conklin
Ever since her dad died in an accident, Maddy Gaines sees danger and deception everywhere. But is the new kid at school really the kid she saw on the news who went missing six months ago? A sensitive middle-grade novel dealing with anxiety, domestic abuse and big family changes.

Rewilding the Urban Soul: Searching for the Wild in the City, Claire Dunn
Claire Dunn once spent a year living in the Australian bush – but after moving to Melbourne, she wanted to find ways to seek wildness in the city. This memoir charts her experiments in foraging, exploring, learning about local species, kayaking a city river and more. A bit too long, but well written and lovely. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 7).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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The books (and the rest of life) are coming thick and fast this month, friends. (Photo from the wonderful Dogtown Books in Gloucester.)

Here’s what I have been reading:

Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
Lewis is a minister and speaker dedicated to ubuntu – the Zulu concept of interdependence, humanity and compassion. She shares her own experience as a Black woman and a minister, and calls repeatedly for her readers to pursue both joy and justice. The parts about her own story resonated with me the most. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 9).

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story: Remaking a Life from Scratch, Erin French
Annie recommended this memoir about food and love and mistakes and finding one’s way to a calling. I read it in two days – French’s writing is compelling, with lots of gorgeous food descriptions and some hard, honest reflection on her family and herself. Lovely.

The Parker Inheritance, Varian Johnson
I loved Johnson’s YA novel The Great Greene Heist. This (much more serious) middle-grade story follows two Black kids in a small Southern town who stumble on a mystery. What they dig up deals with sports, pervasive racism, an heirloom bracelet and a former tennis coach and his family who got run out of town decades ago. Compelling, though a bit confusing at times.

Castle Shade, Laurie R. King
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes find themselves in the depths of Roumania, investigating rumors of vampires (as one does). I loved this 17th installment in the series; it deals with village secrets, the effects of war and the challenge (for Russell and Holmes) of being married to a prickly, independent person. So fun.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears, Meg Medina
Sixth grade is no joke for Merci Suarez – homework is getting tougher, the school’s queen bee has it out for her, and she can’t play soccer this year. Her beloved Lolo is also acting strange lately. I loved this warm, funny, thoughtful middle-grade novel about family and change and growing up.

Life is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star, Tim Federle
Former dancer and current writer/screenwriter Federle shares the wisdom he’s gained from a life in the theater. These bite-size essays are full of fun anecdotes and musical references, and basically boil down to: work hard, be a good person and celebrate when you can. Lots of fun.

The Defiant Middle: How Women Claim Life’s In-Betweens to Remake the World, Kaya Oakes
Women often find themselves caught between conflicting expectations and even more complicated realities. Journalist Oakes examines the lives of women of faith – mostly women from the Bible, and saints – to make the point that feminine identity has always been transgressive and complicated. Thought-provoking– the chapters on “Barren” and “Alone” struck me especially. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 30).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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