Book List, Staff Picks

Summer Staff Picks, Round 2

Welcome to the Summer Staff Picks, Round 2! Every summer, each staff members picks a set number of books that they think make great warm weather and vacation reads. They write 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. Just like last year, this is a competition among us on the staff, and the books you buy determine the winner! Since we have many new staff members with fewer picks, we’ll also determine who has a single book that sells the most copies!

Here’s how it works: Every staff member has picked between 2 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). 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!

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

In the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the original 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers Falcons will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. Against a background of irresistible 1980s iconography, Quan Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.

Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity. Through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship, this comic tour de female force chronicles Barry’s glorious cast of characters as they charge past every obstacle on the path to finding their glorious true selves.

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

A sweeping and tragic debut novel perfect for fans of The Wrath and the Dawn and Megan Whalen Turner. This young adult novel is an excellent choice for accelerated tween readers in grades 7 to 8, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom . . . until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire.

On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of . . . even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

From USA TODAY bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a “masterpiece” (Locus Magazine) of a novel about revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition. Labeled “one of 2020’s buzziest horror novels” (Entertainment Weekly), this is a remarkable horror story that “will give you nightmares—the good kind of course” (BuzzFeed).

From New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a novel that is equal parts psychological horror and cutting social commentary on identity politics and the American Indian experience. Fans of Jordan Peele and Tommy Orange will love this story as it follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets the joy and glamour of Eurovision in bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente’s science fiction spectacle, where sentient races compete for glory in a galactic musical contest…and the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented—something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the great galactic civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix—part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Species far and wide compete in feats of song, dance and/or whatever facsimile of these can be performed by various creatures who may or may not possess, in the traditional sense, feet, mouths, larynxes, or faces. And if a new species should wish to be counted among the high and the mighty, if a new planet has produced some savage group of animals, machines, or algae that claim to be, against all odds, sentient? Well, then they will have to compete. And if they fail? Sudden extermination for their entire species.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny—they must sing.

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Magic passed down through generations. An island where strange things happen. One summer that will become legend.

Practical Magic meets Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap in this lush, atmospheric novel by acclaimed author Katrina Leno.

Georgina Fernweh waits impatiently for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has touched every woman in her family. But with her eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, falling in love, and the mystery behind one rare three-hundred-year-old bird—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A page-turning thriller for readers of Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, and Stieg Larsson, Night Film tells the haunting story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy—the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.
 
On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
 
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.
 
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.
 
The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.
 
Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page.

Title & Author

The New York Times best seller is now a major motion picture starring Lily James and Sam Riley, with Matt Smith, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey. 

Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an audacious retelling of English literature’s most enduring novel. This expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem begins when a mysterious plague falls upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. It’s the perfect read for literature lovers, zombie fans, and anyone who loves a reanimated Austen.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Rule, “America’s best true-crime writer” (Kirkus Reviews), her unforgettable classic account of the horrifying murders in the Pacific Northwest and her shock when she discovered her friend—Ted Bundy—was not only a suspect but also one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.

Meeting in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic, Ann Rule and Ted Bundy developed a friendship and correspondence that would span the rest of his life. Rule had no idea that when they went their separate ways, their paths would cross again under shocking circumstances.

The Stranger Beside Me is Rule’s compelling firsthand account of not just her relationship with Bundy, but also his life—from his complicated childhood to the media circus of his trials. Astonishing in its intimacy and with Rule’s clear-eyed prose, you can’t help but share in her growing horror at discovering that her friend was one of the most notorious American serial killers.

An unforgettable and haunting work of research, journalism, and personal memories, The Stranger Beside Me is “as dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight” (TheNew York Times).

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