School Trip

by Jerry Craft
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Others in the series: New Kid, Class Act
Content: There are some shenanigans and awkward moments. It’s in the Middle-Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Jordan and his friends have a long-awaited school trip to Pairs. They’re all excited for different reasons; Jordan especially since he wants to see all the art with his art teacher. However, to the actions of several tech-savvy kids, the teachers assigned to the various trips get all mixed up, and the teachers going to the Paris trip know nothing. That’s a chance for Maury to shine: his mother went to school in Paris, and they visit often. He is able to show the other kids all the cool spots. As they go through the city of lights, the kids learn to navigate friendships and talk about their feelings and how they are treated. Sometimes everyone being in a new place can make it easier to talk about things you aren’t able to back home.

I really like this series. I like Craft’s art style and the way he has many different characters that all have some depth to them. I like that he’s not afraid to talk about racism or just the way kids can mistreat each other without realizing it. I do like that the kids are mostly complex characters. It’s a fun book, but also a thoughtful one. My only complaint is that Jordan’s parents decided what high school he would attend (he got into an art-specific high school) without letting him have his say. But that’s a minor thing in such a well-done graphic novel.

Highly recommended.

Audio book: The Night in Question

by Liz Lawson and Kathleen Glasgow
Read by Sophie Amoss, Holly Linneman & Mehr Dudeja
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Or listen at
Release date: May 30, 2023
Others in the series: The Agathas
Content: There is some mild swearing, talk of out-of-wedlock babies, violence (both domestic and other), and talk of murder. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Spoilers for the first one, kind of.

Iris and Alice have developed a pretty solid friendship since solving Brooke’s murder four months ago. Their parents and Alice’s old friends don’t really understand it, but it’s harmless, as long as they refrain from solving any other crimes. But at the winter dance, which takes place at the Levy Castle, Alice stumbles upon another crime: Rebecca Kennedy lying in a pool of her own blood, with Helen Park standing over her. While Rebecca’s not dead, she’s severely injured enough to not say what happened, but the evidence is clear: Park stabbed her. Right? 

Well, Alice and Iris think the police are wrong (again) and take it upon themselves to figure out what happened. It takes them on a twisty path involving family (there’s a genealogy project that lurks in the background), old movie stars, the things people will do for money and fame, and will test the bounds of both Iris’ and Alice’s parents. 

I liked The Agathas, but I think this one is better. I liked the twisty mystery, and how all these disparate parts come together in the end. And while there were twists and turns, I never felt like anything was out of left field. Lawson and Glasgow are good plotters, dropping enough hints and foreshadowing that nothing felt out of place. 

And the narrators were fantastic. They all kept me engaged, helped me figure out who was who and kept the mystery from getting sluggish. This is a smart, fun series – who doesn’t love a couple of kids outsmarting the cops and figuring out mysteries? I’m here these as long as Lawson and Glasgow want to write them. 

Audiobook: The Lonely Hearts Book Club

by Lucy Gilmore
Read by Angie Kane
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Content: There is some mild swearing, and talk of death. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Sometimes, you need a book that just reaffirms your faith in humanity. That there are good people out there, and that connecting is the best thing. The Authenticity Project is one of those books. As is this one.

Sloane Parker is an unassuming 20-something, who is engaged to a chiropractor, mostly because he’s safe. She works at the Cour d’Alene library, and one of their patrons – Arther MacLachlan – is an old crank, but he and Sloane take to sparring. So, when he doesn’t show up at the library for a few days, Sloane is worried. She risks her job to get Arthur’s address, where she finds him throwing out home nurse aids, having just been released from the hospital. From there both Sloane’s and Arthur’s world expands as they meet, make, and grow some pretty wonderful friendships along the way. And of course: there’s a book club to propel all this along.

Yes, it is a bit mundane, and everyone’s problems are quite ordinary. But, it’s also delightful, especially on audiobook, so you can hear Kane’s brilliant voices embody the characters and make them come alive. It’s sweet and charming and delightful. And sometimes, you just need that.


by V. E. Schwab
First sentence: “Victor readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave.”
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Content: There is a lot of violence, and some swearing, including quite a few f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Victor has just gotten out of prison, after spending ten years there for a murder he accidentally committed, and he is out for revenge. The target is his ex-best friend Eli, who has decided to become the judge, jury, and executioner of the city’s EO – extraordinary people, those with special powers. The thing is that Victor and Eli are both EOs: ten years ago, when they were best friends at college, they became interested in how EOs came to be, and they recreated the conditions to give themselves powers. But things went awry (hence accidental murder) and Victor is hell-bent on stopping Eli.

This is a straightforward revenge story, building up to a climax at midnight when the two foes face each other. But, because it’s Schwab, it’s also more than that. You get their history together (and a feeling that Victor was in love with Eli), and the ups and downs of their early experimentation. And the way their relationship so spectacularly imploded. There are minor characters you both come to care about as well as loathe, and you have to wonder who is “good” in this book. (Answer: no one, really.) The last bit made me incredibly anxious: Schwab is ruthless and has no mercy for her characters, so you didn’t know, going in, who was going to come out of this alive.

In short: it was fantastic.

A First Time for Everything

by Dan Santat
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Content: There is some smoking by European teenagers, as well as beer drinking (the legal age is different in Germany!). There is also some kissing. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In the summer of 1989, right after 8th grade, Santat had the opportunity to go with classmates to Europe and spend three weeks there. They spent a couple of days in Paris, and then in Austria, Germany, and finally to London. This is the story of his experiences. There’s more to it than that: it’s about Santat finding his voice again after being bullied in Middle School. it’s how he figures out how to be in a relationship and make friends. But mostly, it’s about having great experiences and making great memories.

The art, obviously, is fantastic – I love the way Santat captures not only the grandness of European towns but also the silliness of being a 13/14-year-old IN Europe, mostly unsupervised. It’s a charming book, because Santat is a charming guy, and it’s a great travel book; he made me feel like I was there in Europe. It’s a good story, it’s one of growth and learning and having experiences. It’s one that I think kids will really like, but one that I could apreciate as an adult, too.

Audiobook: B. F. F.

A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found
by Christie Tate
Read by the Author
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Or listen at
Content: There is talk of eating disorders, alcoholism, and swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

In this memoir, Tate deconstructs her friendships with women, from the way she abandoned her high school friends for a (alcoholic, abusive) boyfriend, to the way she compared and sabotaged friendships as an adult. The throughline for all of this was, yes, her group therapy and recovery sessions, but also a woman she calls Merideth. A woman 20 years Tate’s senior with problems of her own that she is recovering from, Meredith became not just Tate’s rock to lean on, but her conscious and guiding hand. 

So what does one do when Meredith is diagnosed with an incurable and advanced form of cancer? How can she deal with being present for Meredith and with her own grief? How can she learn to be better?

I do have to say up front that, assuming all this is true, Tate is remarkably brave for putting it all out there. She is not likable for a good half of the book when she’s talking about how she abandoned friends due to jealousy and anger. She comes across as petulant and insecure, and yes I was judging her until I started really listening and figuring out where I’m like her. She has much to say about friendship, not just her friendships, and I think that part is worthwhile. The second part is Meredith’s decline and death, and I think Tate has a lot of good things to say about supporting people through that – not just the person who is ill, but the people around them as well – and about grief. But, the final section, after Meredith has passed on, where Tate writes letters about her healing and rekindling friendships she had thought she had permanently destroyed – that was the best section. I think it all had to be there, though. You had to get through petulant Tate to truly understand the healing process. 

While I think it’s kind of uneven in spots, it’s worth it for what Tate has to say about friendship, overall.

Happy Place

by Emily Henry
First sentence: “A cottage on the rocky shoreline, with knotty pine floorboards and windows that are nearly always open.”
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Release date: April 25, 2023
Content: There are a couple sexytimes and swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It will be in the romance section of the bookstore.

Harriet and Cleo and Sabrina have been friends since their freshman year of college. They’re an unlikely trio from vastly different backgrounds with different ambitions, but they make it work. As they get older they add more: Parth, whose house they moved into their junior year, and then Wyn, Parth’s friend, got folded in. Except Harriet and Wyn felt an almost-instant attraction. They eventually got together, thinking it would last forever.

Fast forward 8 years and Wyn and Harriet have broken up. Harriet’s in a medical residency in San Francisco, and Wyn just… wasn’t happy. So he left. Then he broke it off. But, they’re both at Sabrina’s family’s cottage in Maine for a week in the summer, with everyone, for one last fling. Can they pretend everything is fine, for the sake of old times?

This one is less focused on the romance, though Henry intersperses chapters of Wyn and Harriet’s getting together and falling in love, with the present week in Maine. It was an effective tactic: we got to see the fallout before we read about how they got together. But it worked. Mostly because this book is less about the Romance Tropes than it is about friendship – as important as Wyn and Harriet’s breakup is, the feeling that the friendships are falling apart because everyone is getting older, and things are Changing – and about making your own happiness.

It was the last thing that struck me the most. Harriet had spent her life trying to make her unhappy parents happy, making the choices that landed her in San Francisco. But, over the course of the novel, she realizes that she can’t do that, that the one thing she can control is her own happiness and her own choices. It was something that resonated with me.

So, while this was not my favorite Henry (that remains Book Lovers), it was a very, very good one, one that resonated with me quite a bit.

Graphic Novel Two-fer

Lost in Taiwan
by Mark Crilley
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Release date: May 23, 2023
Content: There are some intense moments and the untranslated Chinese might deter some readers. It will be in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Paul has been sent by his father to live with his older brother, Theo, in Taiwan for a couple of weeks. It’s the last place Paul wants to be, and he’s more than content to spend it on Theo’s couch, playing video games. But then Theo leaves on an overnight trip, and Paul is alone. An online friend convinces Paul to go find an exclusive device, and Paul sets out with his phone’s GPS. He walks through winding streets and open fields, but when he gets to the store, he drops his phone in a puddle and is now stuck, somewhere in the city, with no way of getting back. Thankfully, he met a Taiwanese girl who did a study abroad in England and can speak English. They set off on an adventure to try and find Theo’s apartment. It takes all day, and on the way Paul learns that 1) putting the games down and getting off the couch is a good thing and 2) maybe his view of the world is pretty narrow.

It’s another beautifully drawn graphic novel from Crilley, and in this one, he manages to tackle both American exceptionalism and the beauty of Taiwan. It’s a fun read, not only for kids but for anyone who wants to experience what a day in Taiwan might look like.

The Faint of Heart
by Kerilynn Wilson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: June 13, 2023
Content: There are some disturbing themes in this one. It will be in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

At some point in the future (in this world at least), “The Scientist” has discovered a way for people to remove their hearts and numb them, thereby making them immune to all emotions. Pretty much everyone has done this, except for June. She clings to her heart, because she wants to feel, and wants to continue to draw. But, the pressure mounts, and her parents decide that June needs to go through the procedure. June fakes it though, wandering around the city, and finds a heart in a jar. This sets off a chain of events that will lead June to change the future.

This was such a gorgeously drawn book. It was the art that drew me to it in the first place. I liked the use of black and white, with June being the only pop of color. But the story was odd. Yes, I know it was all metaphorical, and it was an exploration of why we need feelings and art and why solely relying on our unemotional analytical side is not a great way to live. But I did get hung up on people living WITHOUT THEIR HEARTS. How did they function? How did the blood go through their bodies? I couldn’t let that go while I was reading.

Which may be a me problem, actually. Otherwise, it’s really good.

Audiobook: Now Is Not the Time to Panic

by Kevin Wilson
Read by Ginnifer Goodwin
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Or listen at
Content: There is some talk of violence and sex, and some swearing (maybe a couple of f-bombs? I can’t remember). It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

It’s the summer of 1996 in Coalfield, Tennessee, and there isn’t a whole lot to do, especially if you were 16. Frankie is resigned to another boring summer until she meets Zeke. And the two of them create a poster – Frankie comes up with the words and Zeke the art – that, once they start putting it up all over town, creates a panic. Two people end up dying, and there is talk of the poster coming from a Satanic cult. Frankie and Zeke promise to never tell, but 21 years later, Frankie is contacted by a reporter who has discovered that she is behind the Coalfield Craze of 1996. Now, it seems, the story needs to be told.

On the one hand, the book is an interesting musing on the purpose and reach of art: did the poster mean what everyone thought it meant? What responsibility do Frankie and Zeke have for others’ reactions to their art? There was a bit of coming-of-age, as Frankie had a first love, and her dreams were crushed, and realized that maybe everything isn’t perfect. But – I had issues with her as a 16-year-old. She felt… young. Obsessive. I hated the use of “weird” – she was “weird”, she felt “weird”, and she had a “weird” brain. It was a lot. I liked the narrator; she was sweet and read the book well, but in the end, I wasn’t sure I really got what Wilson was getting at.

EMG Graphic Novel Roundup 8

Last one!

Smaller Sister
by Maggie Edkins Willis
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Content: There is talk of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. As well as a lot of talk about crushes. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Born close together, Livy and Lucy were super close as kids. They played together, building imaginary worlds. It seemed to Lucy that they would always be inseparable. But then, their parents moved them to a different school and Livy became… different. She hung out with the popular girls, started talking a lot about boys, stopped eating, and (worst of all) stopped talking to Lucy. As things got worse, and Livy developed an eating disorder, Lucy was left to unravel things all by herself.

This one was just so good. I loved all the aspects of sisterhood that Willis touched upon, how the girls were close, and then grew apart as the oldest one got older. (They did make up in the end, and find their way back to friendship.) I also liked the focus on eating disorders from the outside. There is one scene, later when Lucy is in 6th grade when she decides to control her food, and Livy is able to talk to her and tell her from experience what was going on. It was an incredibly touching scene. A very good book.

by Marjorie Liu and Teny Issakhanian
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Content: There are some intense/scary moments. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Zuli has been raised her whole life in the Great Tree, the place where the spirits of birds come to rest before being reborn. She is content there, communing with the birds, until the day that the spirits stop coming. Concerned, the birds send one of Zuli’s bird friends out to find out the cause, but when he doesn’t come back, Zuly and her companion Frowly set out into the wide world to find the problem. Once there, they find a world of danger, hardship, and a witch queen who wants to take over. On their journey, though, they find friendship and companionship, and most of all, Zuli finds out who she really is.

This is a really excellent hero’s journey tale. It has shades of Warrior Cats (there were at least a few pages that gave off strong Warriors vibes), but it’s still a solid tale. I love the world and the mythology that Liu has created and Issakhanian’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely an excellent start to what could be a great series.

Play Like a Girl
by Misty Wilson and David Wilson
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Content: There is a bit of bullying and some friendship issues. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir, Wilson recounts her seventh-grade year when she was on the football team. She was always an active girl, in sports, and not really terribly feminine. So when the boys tell her she “can’t” play football, she sets out to prove them wrong. On the way, she loses a best friend – Bree, who doesn’t want to be all sweaty with the boys, but instead befriends the mean girl in the school, shunning Misty – and gains some new ones, as well as the respect of some of the boys (but not all) on the team. She learns new skills and works hard to play the best and hardest she can.

I’m always down for a girl in a non-traditional sports book, and this is a good one. I loved Misty’s determination to do anything she puts her mind to, even in the face of opposition from her teammates. I’m glad she had the support of some of the adults in her life, and I appreciated that Wilson didn’t shy away from the costs Misty paid for being on the football team. The art is really good as well. An excellent graphic novel all around.