Hello and welcome to our new release roundup for the month of July! If this is your first time, we take a brief look at some of the well-reviewed titles that we either love or have heard great things about.
First is BELIEVE ME by J.P. Delaney. Summer is in full swing, which means people are coming in asking for beach reads. Even though Kansas lacks ocean beaches, there’s always room in your bag for a book if you’re going to the pool, or the lake, or just sitting in your back porch in the early evening. If you love psychological thrillers, make to to look up the newest from J.P. Delaney, who delivers an followup to last year’s excellent THE GIRL BEFORE. Here, the novel focuses on a young woman, a struggling actress, in the empoy of a divorce lawyer, who goes to bars and secretly records married men who are looking for affairs for use in court. But when the wife of one of her recent assignments turns up dead, the police use her as bait to gather more information - and the deception deepens. This is a classic pageturner where you never quite know if you can trust the main character or not - after all, people who live lives of deception sometimes have problems telling the truth….
DEAR MRS. BIRD by A.J. Pearce. if you love fizzy, delightful, charming works of historical fiction, this one is for you. Pearce sets her novel in London during the Blitz - not exactly a place for a fizzy, delightful, charming novel, but that’s what makes this title special. Brits of all backgrounds are trying to go about their daily lives with dash and determinism, all the while the war is going around them. A young woman, Emmeline Lake, is living in a tiny apartment with her friends, looking for an opportunity to pursue her dream: working as a crusading wartime journalist. Answering a classified ad, she lands what she thinks is her dream job, but quickly discovers that instead she’s working as a secretary for a fading women’s magazine. But when she discovers the letters sent to the magazine’s advice columnist that were rejected due to ‘unpleasant’ topics, she discovers her true calling: helping those who need it, in a way that she can. (Even if it’s answering letters seeking relationship advice under the nose of her bosses.) Fun and lighthearted despite the war background, this feel-good romp is perfect for those who liked THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.
NUMBER ONE CHINESE RESTAURANT by Lillian Li. A multi-generational novel of family, friendship, and community, this novel takes place in and around a Chinese restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. After the family’s patriarch - and owner of the Duck House restaurant - passes away, the family and employees are thrown into chaos. Not only does the novel excel at presenting the details of restaurant life both in front of and behind the kitchen door, the intermingling of characters who have worked together on varying roles for years is a fascinating one. Should they sell the place that’s been at the center of their lives for generations? Should the kitchen evolve from serving Chinese-American favorites into a more daring culinary style? Li also gives us a rarely-seen thing in a summer novel - a possible romance between two older characters, who know the difference between youthful passion and the reliability that comes with a successful marriage. Debut novelist Li juggles this and many other storylines with the ease of a master chef, and should be a part of any book list this summer, even if you’re not a fan of dim sum.
POISONED CITY: FLINT’S WATER AND AN AMERICAN URBAN TRAGEDY by Anna Clark. It’s a rare thing that you get the read the first draft of history. The drinking water crisis in the working-class city of Flint, Michigan, that began in 2014 when the city switched their water supply to a different source - a source that quickly corroded old lead pipes. Citizens complained of foul-smelling and foul-tasting water for months but were ignored by city officials. After months of complaints and activism, officials finally moved to acknowledge and then meet the crisis, but the damage to local citizens and children were already done. Clark, a journalist from Michigan, was one of the first to cover the scandal, and she methodically takes us through the multiple layers of poor decision-making that led to the decision to switch water sources and then the aftermath that followed. As attention to local news coverage has diminished in favor of national news, smaller-scale civic problems that affect thousands of people are in desperate need of attention. This well-researched book is an important one.
SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik. A followup to her award-winning fantasy UPROOTED, Novik excels at writing fantasy novels that with a Eastern European fairy-tale bent to them - instead of elves and bearded wizards and magic swords, Novik would rather give you dark forests and forbidden knowledge and tales told around the campfire deep into the night. Here, she loosely bases her novel on the Rumpelstiltskin from the Brothers Grimm: a daughter of a small-town moneylender who is supremely bad at his job, Miryem takes over the family business and realizes she’s much more capable and talented than her father ever was - turning silver into gold. (Figuratively, not literally.) This attracts the attention of a magical creature who haunts a local forest, wanting the “magic” for his own, and offers her a deal that spins wildly out of control. Multi-layered, with sharp character work and a wonderfully atmospheric plot that brings to mind the best of Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire, Novik is a seriously awesome novelist who you need to discover if you haven’t already. (Her UPROOTED, which we mentioned before, is amazing, as is the first book in her Temeraire series - HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON, which is similar in feel to the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin Napoleonic adventure novels - just, y’know, with dragons.)