Book List, Seasonal Picks, Staff Picks

Summer Staff Picks, Round 5

Welcome to the Summer Staff Picks, Round 5! Every summer, each staff members picks a set number of books that they think make great warm weather and vacation reads. They right a blurb for every book, and we put them out on display in the store for all our customers to see (this year they’re to the left when you walk in the front door, along the wall!)

What we don’t always share, however, is our competitive nature. We never want to be coming across as used car salesmen at the store, but behind the scenes, we’re always subtly checking out whose picks have sold more copies. This year, we decided to change it up, and outright share that this is a competition among us on the staff, and the books you buy determine the winner!

Here’s how it works: Every staff member has picked between 5 and 8 titles that they think make great summer reads. The person who’s picks collectively sell the most during June, July and August wins the competition at the end of the summer (we don’t get a prize, just bragging rights). Each staff member’s name below links to that staff members summer picks (all of them, not just the featured one). Each week we’ll feature one book from each staff member here on the blog and whoever’s featured book sells the most that week gets 10 bonus points to their final tally and the button “Summer Staff Picks #5” right below takes you to this week’s featured titles. If you’ve already read a book on the list and loved it, mention it in the comments and the staff member who picked it gets a bonus point for each mention!

Basically, we hope you like the books and help us nurture our competitive sides!

What a fun book! I started reading and absolutely could not put it down. I’m a sucker for a great royal adventure and characters with good chemistry. The Royal Runaway certainly did not disappoint, and it’s Scottish and Scandinavian setting made me love it even more!

For fans of The Princess Diaries and The Royal We comes a fun and daring novel about a modern-day princess who teams up with a spy to find out what happened to the fiancé who left her at the altar—and who just might get her own fairytale in the process.
Princess Theodora Isabella Victoria of Drieden of the Royal House Laurent is so over this princess thing.
After her fiancé jilted her on their wedding day, she’s finally back home after spending four months in exile—aka it’s back to press conferences, public appearances, and putting on a show for the Driedish nation as the perfect princess they expect her to be. But Thea’s sick of duty. After all, that’s what got her into this mess in the first place.
So when she sneaks out of the palace and meets a sexy Scot named Nick in a local bar, she relishes the chance to be a normal woman for a change. But just as she thinks she’s found her Prince Charming for the night, he reveals his intentions are less than honorable: he’s the brother of her former fiancé, a British spy, and he’s not above blackmail. As Thea reluctantly joins forces with Nick to find out what happened the day her fiancé disappeared, together they discover a secret that could destroy a centuries-old monarchy and change life as they know it.
Funny, fast-paced, and full of more twists and turns than the castle Thea lives in, The Royal Runaway is a fresh romantic comedy that will leave you cheering for the modern-day royal who chucks the rulebook aside to create her own happily-ever-after.

First love, heartbreak and second chances, this book has it all. While in London traveling with their grandparents Tate and Sam meet and experience an intense two week romance but fate has other plans and they each leave London heartbroken and alone. Fourteen years later, they are reunited when Tate is cast as the leading actress in the movie version of Sam’s novel Milkweed.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…
Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.
During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.
Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.
With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

Comedian Trevor Noah’s sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious memoir of growing up in South Africa under apartheid is a gem. With a black mother and a white father, he was literally “born a crime.” Like a chameleon, Noah could change people’s perception of his color. His father was a closed book and his stepfather was an abusive alcoholic. His mother, Patricia, is the hero of this story. Stubborn, self-confident and never scared, she taught Noah how to think. The miracle ending was unexpected and heartwarming.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

A very original retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the richly described world of A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY had me hooked from the very first line. With Harper as our very fierce Beauty, Rhen as our tragic but not pitiable Beast, and the mysterious enigma that is Grey, this story is far too exciting to put down. If a dark classic fairytale combined with a modern day girl power vibe sounds good, then this is your kind of read.

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.
Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

With her previous books, “Meaty” and “We Are Never Meeting In Real Life,” Irby quickly became one of my favorite humorous writers. In this, her fourth collection of essays, she hilariously opines among other things, iphones and the internet, the perfect mixtape and what the chosen songs mean to her, the pain of homeownership, and whether or not her dead cat Helen is haunting her. She is beyond honest so you’ll feel like your new best friend is spilling her guts while simultaneously making you spray drink out of your nose from laughing.

From Samantha Irby–beloved author of New York Times bestseller We Are Never Meeting in Real Life--a rip-roaring, edgy and unabashedly raunchy new collection of hilarious essays.
Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “tv executives slash amateur astrologers” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” who still hides past due bills under her pillow.
The essays in this collection draw on the raw, hilarious particulars of Irby’s new life. Wow, No ThankYou. is Irby at her most unflinching, riotous, and relatable.

When the thick, muggy Mid-Atlantic summer hits, don’t you just want to leave it all behind and camp out in the snow with the sound of the rushing Yukon River filling your ears? OK, OK, that’s probably just me. Jokes aside, The Sun Is a Compass, a memoir from Van Hemert about her and her husband’s 4,000-mile trek to the north coast of Alaska and across to the west coast of the state, will indeed take you away to places barely anyone has seen while grounding you deeply in truths and questions about the day to day–how we chart a course through life, choose our roles in our relationships, cope with loss, and more. It’s an excellent pick for a recent college grad, too. And if you do need to cool off, you’ll find this book filled with gorgeous photos of the otherworldly Arctic and awe-inducing natural descriptions. Grab an ice pop, head outside (safely, of course), and dive in.

For fans of Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist’s human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure.
During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.
In March of 2012, she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace — migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou, and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences.
A unique blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative, The Sun is a Compass explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of the creatures who make their homes in the wildest places left in North America. Inspiring and beautifully written, this love letter to nature is a lyrical testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Morgan Matson is known for her summer contemporaries, and this one doesn’t dissapoint. Emily’s (much more adventourous and outgoing) best friend Sloane disappears, only leaving behing a to-do list for the summer. On this list include anything from “kiss a stranger” to “dance until dawn.” Not only is the plot entertaining, but the characters, song playlists, and overall feeling of summer are so fun to read about! I related a lot to Emily’s personality, and I loved following her on this journey. You will be in the mood for a true “rom-com esque” adventure after reading “Since You’ve Been Gone!”

Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever. Hellogiggles.com says, “Basically I couldn’t be more in love with this book,” from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.
Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.
But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?
Apple picking at night?
 Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn?
 Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger?
 Wait…what?
Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.
Go Skinny Dipping?
 Um…

If you enjoy great epic fantasies and are looking for the next one then look no further! Upon a burning throne is one part game of thrones, one part Illiad, and one part Mahabharta. Full of gods, wars, magic and empires Upon a Burning throne is a spectacular read!

From international sensation Ashok K. Banker, pioneer of the fantasy genre in India, comes the first book in a groundbreaking, epic fantasy series inspired by the ancient Indian classic, The Mahabharata.
In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the Emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without an emperor. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule, but birthright does not guarantee inheritance, for any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible—one that incinerates the unworthy.
Adri and Shvate pass The Test and are declared heirs to the empire . . . but there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives: a girl from an outlying kingdom. When this girl, whose father is the powerful demonlord Jarsun, is denied her claim by the interim leaders, Jarsun declares war, vowing to tear the Burnt Empire apart—leaving the young princes Adri and Shvate to rule a shattered realm embroiled in rebellion and chaos . . .  

Waking up with no memory and surrounded by a seemingly impossible and horrifying labyrinth, Thomas is forced to work together with the other trapped within if they want to find a way to survive, let alone escape. The never-ending secrets of the maze are always keeping you on edge, while Dashner’s writing always keeps things moving. This great combination makes The Maze Runner a solid pick for anyone looking to get back into reading YA, or in general.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.

Think coronavirus is bad? Just wait till you read what it was like for Europeans in 1347, when the Black Death arrived! John Kelly paints a vivid picture of life in Europe in the mid-14th century, the conditions that led to the pandemic, how the plague spread like wildfire, and how people ultimately survived it. This book treats the disease like its own character—an unwieldy beast that runs roughshod over medieval communities powerless to stop it—and explores the impact on both broad and very intimate scales, often detailing individual people’s stories amidst the bigger picture. For those looking to learn more about the nature of diseases and pandemics, this is a great starting point.

The Great Plague is one of the most compelling events in human history, even more so now, when the notion of plague—be it animal or human—has never loomed larger as a contemporary public concern
The plague that devastated Asia and Europe in the 14th century has been of never-ending interest to both scholarly and general readers. Many books on the plague rely on statistics to tell the story: how many people died; how farm output and trade declined. But statistics can’t convey what it was like to sit in Siena or Avignon and hear that a thousand people a day are dying two towns away. Or to have to chose between your own life and your duty to a mortally ill child or spouse. Or to live in a society where the bonds of blood and sentiment and law have lost all meaning, where anyone can murder or rape or plunder anyone else without fear of consequence.
In The Great Mortality, author John Kelly lends an air of immediacy and intimacy to his telling of the journey of the plague as it traveled from the steppes of Russia, across Europe, and into England, killing 75 million people—one third of the known population—before it vanished.

Darius the Great is Not Okay- This book made me feel more understood than any other book has, and I am so grateful for its existence! Darius deals with depression and it is written from an Own Voice’s perspective, which made it all the more real and relatable. I also love that this followed a friendship and not a love story the way that most books do. The friendship between Darius and Sohrab is so beautiful to read about because they both have such innocence about them that make them so lovable. This book made me feel happy, sad, and even angry at the way that certain families are treated because of their religion. This book was so insightful on a culture that I knew next to nothing about. The way that the families were so close and so loving in their own ways was refreshing for me to read

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.

Don’t forget to comment the title of ones that you’ve read and loved to help the staff member who recommended it get bonus points!

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