Sandy has worked at The Galaxy Bookshop since 2000, when she worked during school breaks. Now, as co-owner of the bookstore, she doesn’t get to read on the job like she used to, but still gets excited every time she opens a new box of books. Sandy is the events coordinator, children’s book buyer, and website manager for the store, as well as being a frontline bookseller.
Books have brought great joy and comfort into Sandy’s life, and she feels very lucky to work in a place where she can share this with others every day. Although it would be impossible to list all of her beloved books here, here, at least, are some of the recent titles that have captured her heart. (If you want to see the long–yet still incomplete–list, you can find me on Goodreads!)
Whiskey When We’re Dry, by John Larison
A western with echoes of True Grit. This masterful novel is told in the memorable voice of Jessilyn Harney, a young girl on her own, searching for the older brother who left her years before and became a notorious outlaw.
Larison evokes his novel’s setting and characters so well – highly recommended.
Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide: The World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras, Rosemary Mosco, and Joy Ang. This was a fun departure from our usual bedtime stories with the seven-going-on-eight-year-old at my house. Each page takes the reader (or listener!) on a new adventure to surprising and real places around the world. From a bloody waterfall to abandoned amusement parks to a town where it rains fish (or does it?), this is a tantalizing taste of the wonders the world has to offer.
The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang. Totally fresh storytelling – this is an “own voices” story, about a woman who has found success in her career but is hampered in social interactions by Asperger’s Syndrome. Author Helen Hoang was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as an adult, and her main character, Stella, grew from Hoang’s personal experiences of navigating the world.
Stella, goaded by her mother’s desires to see her married and settled down, decides that the best way to learn how to be in a relationship is to hire a professional. Enter Michael Phan, a sexy male escort who agrees to tutor Stella in the art of intimacy. It’s no surprise that their business relationship develops into something more, but Hoang’s storytelling and her fully formed characters totally pulled me in and kept me reading, “just one more chapter” until the end. Sweet, sexy, and a delight to read!
Keep an eye out for Hoang’s second novel, The Bride Test, which is coming out this summer.
My Lady’s Choosing, by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris. If you have fond memories of Choose Your Own Adventure books AND you love a little escapist romance from time to time, you will love My Lady’s Choosing, an “interactive” romance novel in which you, the reader, are the main character and have the power to determine which journey you will take in the story. Will you seek the attentions of a devilishly handsome aristocrat? Become a governess in the home of a mysterious and handsome gentleman on the English moors? Toss convention to the winds and join a band of wandering female assassins? Told with more than a dash of humor, this homage to the historical romance genre is laugh-out-loud fun and good for numerous readings.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. This debut novel from bestselling non-fiction author and naturalist Delia Owens was thrilling to read. She vividly portrays the marshlands of the isolated North Carolina coastal village where Kya Clark, the “Marsh Girl,” grows up – left on her own by her family and exiled by a mistrustful community. Kya’s coming of age, guided in large part by the wildlife surrounding her, is difficult and even painful at times, but not without its beauty and joy.
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, by Chris Harris; illus. by Lane Smith. This might be the closest I’ve come to finding a true descendant of Shel Silverstein’s classic works like A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. This poetry collection “for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups” is hilarious and worthy of many re-reads. Lane Smith’s offbeat illustrations are the perfect complement to Chris Harris’s zany poems. Our family now quotes from this book regularly, and we may never again be able to make guacamole without referencing the Avocado poem.
And further favorites:
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. Reading this novel was such a treat. Towles paints a vivid picture of life in Moscow following the Bolshevik Revolution. Or, more specifically, life for former Count Alexander Rostov, sentenced to house arrest in a hotel in Moscow. Through a growing and changing cast of characters who work and stay in the elegant Metropol, Alexander maintains a connection to the shifting landscape of Russian politics and culture over the course of 30 years. Through it all, his inner sense of what it means to be a gentleman – the quality that makes his character a joy to spend time with – remains unwavering.
Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin. This story is told from multiple perspectives – each piece of the story told by a different woman who is affected by the scandalous affair between a senator and his young intern. Young Jane Young holds up a mirror to our society’s obsession with scandal and the double standards held for men and women in such cases. Great characters, sharp writing – I give this one 5 stars.
Martin Marten, by Brian Doyle. I fell in love with this novel – the writing, the story, and the characters. I’ve been recommending it to all sorts of readers, whether for the coming-of-age story, the observations of nature, the wonderful community of characters (both human and animal) or the engaging writing style.
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. An excellent fantasy novel with a strong heroine whose yet untapped magical talents have deep connections with the natural world. I highly recommend this book for adults and teens looking for an immersive read that stands on its own (no need to keep up with a series!)
Also recommended: Spinning Silver – equally magical and enthralling.
The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly. A wonderful historical novel set in 1927 in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi. The rising river sets a tense backdrop to the cat and mouse story of prohibition agents and bootleggers.
Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier. A fascinating portrait of female scientists and the tremendous upheaval created by the discovery and study of dinosaur bones in the mid-nineteenth century. Based on the life of the unfairly forgotten palaeontologist Mary Anning.
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. I love Stiefvater’s ability to write YA fantasy that stands apart from the rest of the books in the genre. She mixes unusual mythologies and complex characters to create intriguing and compelling stories. The Scorpio Races is a stand alone novel about a girl who must risk everything to run her common horse in a brutal race against flesh eating water horses or else lose everything she holds dear. I also highly recommend Stiefvater’s series The Raven Cycle
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels; illus. by Emma Block. If you love quiet stories with adventures that are not too big and not too small; if you love cats and tea and treats with whipped cream, this will be the perfect book for you. This is a small treasure of a book, with full color illustrations throughout, about Miss Petitfour, her sixteen cats, and their daily adventures as they travel about town by tablecloth (a different pattern, depending on the day and the adventure desired). A very sweet read-aloud!
The Cookie Fiasco! (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!), by Mo Willems and Dan Santat. Fans of Elephant and Piggie and the Pigeon will rejoice to learn that their favorite author/illustrator is launching a new series aimed at early readers. Willems is collaborating with other authors and illustrators to write books that will encourage beginning readers with simple, easy to read text, vivid illustrations, and engaging – and above all funny – stories. This one has become a family favorite at bedtime. Faced with the conundrum of having three cookies to share among four friends – well, what would you do?
Some older, all-time favorites: