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Staff Picks

Sarah's Book Store Staff Picks

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.



Missoula by Jon Krakauer 

In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.
Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor’s office and successfully defended the Grizzlies’ star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman’s case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community.
Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken. 


Deanna's Book Store Staff Picks

With the Fire on High Cover ImageFix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since.  Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World... whatever that means.Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there's Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her...


Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and a lifetime of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. One hour later, they’re armed with a plan that will take them from their small Michigan town to Chicago. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible can’t hurt. Chased by the oppression, toxicity, and powerlessness that has held them down, Winona and Lucille must reclaim their strength if they are going to make their daring escape—and get away with it.





Nannette's Book Store Staff Picks

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

 Patsy, the novel and character, are poetically full of life, character, and complexity. Patsy chooses to spread her wings and leave her daughter behind in Jamaica to go find her best friend in New York City. From their reconnection and lapse, Patsy's life and that of her daughter are recounted in ways that leave deep impressions on the reader. From gender dysphoria to living undocumented in the United States, Dennis-Benn has set the bar high for the tenderness exposed in a novel.









Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

This graphic novel is precious, wholesome, and full of powerful reminders for any young adult in the midst of heartache. Main character Freddy has been broken up with three times now by Laura Dean, the popular girl she is in love with. But it is up to her to decide the next step, whether she will learn to value her happiness and friendships over the toxic attention from her first love or stay trapped in the break up square dance.









My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This book has been on my To Be Read shelf since it first came out, and I am so glad I finally picked up a copy. Braithwaite's writing is hilariously dark and the characterization is perfect. The narrator, Karede, has a clear voice, even as she jumps across timelines in her life. Her thoughts about her sister Ayoola's murders and committment to blood over law is compelling and irresistible. From the sisters' backstory with an abusive father to their attempts to clean a couple murder scenes, this story never leaves you bored. My Sister, the Serial Killer is the summer read you didn't know you needed. 









Katlin's Book Store Staff Picks

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

  40220881Disclaimer: I got an arc of this book and read it months ago. But it's finally been released so I can recommend it to everyone! I loved this story! It's a delicious mix of drama, intrigue, and fashion. Think project runway in an alternate Victorian England. Emmaline is a little country mouse who's come to the big city to design for the biggest fashion house in the country. She doesn't have a chance, but they were forced to take in a common girl to even the odds. At least, that's how it starts, but Emmaline fights her way through, determined to make a name for herself, even if it kills her in the meantime. This would be the perfect stand alone novel to read on a rainy day! Perfect for fans of historical fiction and Projecy Runway. 






The Spinner of Dreams by K. A. Reynolds

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Annalise was born under an unlucky star. Or rather, her birth caused all the stars to fall and the world to crash, she was born cursed. Despite this, she tries her best to be kind to all she knows and loves her small family as it is, but one day when she finds she could adventure out to find someone to change her fate, her curse, Annalise puts her anxiety aside and takes a leap. 

I loved this middle grade story. The writing was whimsical and kind, it reminded me of classics such as Roald Dahl and Iva Ibboston. Annalise suffers from anxiety and OCD, and must learn in the story to work with it instead of against it. Some neurotypical readers might not understand why Annalise struggles like she does, but they'll still enjoy the adventure she goes on. The author herself is autistic and has anxiety and it's clear from how lovingly she crafts this story. I'm so excited to pick this one up in hardback to give to my ten year old goddaughter. 






Abigail's Book Store Staff Picks

Currently Reading: New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

Pulling from American poetic tradition in the vein of Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson, modern poet Mary Oliver creates transporting and moving poems in this collection of her life's work. Mary Oliver meditates on themes like life and death, nature, and mindfulness, all the while reminding us of our innate inner beauty. This collection is perfect for a quiet summer morning, listening to the birds sing. Here's a taste of Mary Oliver's talent -- "Wild Geese" is probably her most famous work:

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."






How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Romantic, moving, and hilarious, Richard Roper's debut novel is my pick of the summer. When people in London die alone and friendless, our hero Andrew is called in to tidy up the fragments of their lives. Like a dismal Sherlock Holmes, he sorts through people's things to find clues about next of kin. Though his coworkers are annoying and his boss is overzealous, Andrew likes his job and is good at it. he can neatly and precisely put together the pieces of someone's life after they die, but when it comes to the living, Andrew is out of his element. Then, Peggy is hired, a beautiful and interesting woman who not only befreinds the lonely Andrew but gives him a reason to carry on. There's just one catch -- Andrew has been lying about an imaginary family for years, and his lie is starting to tangle! Witty, laugh-out-loud funny, and completely heartfelt, How Not to Die Alone is the most fun I've had with a novel in ages. A must-read!