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Jen Jen

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Mary Roach

For fans of Mary Roach, the question never is, "Will her next book be good?" but "What quirky science-y thing will Mary Roach make interesting, funny, and un-put-downable?" The answer this time around is, in a nutshell, pest control - from trees that fall and cause harm to elephants that kill humans (usually unintentionally.) As always, Mary Roach has done her research, dug in deep, and then managed to make the topic funny. In Fuzz, the author travels to far-flung places such as India, New Zealand, and the Vatican as well as closer to home in the U.S. to dive into what wildlife does to drive people crazy. I expect to hand-sell the heck out of this fall to every holiday shopper that says to me, "I just don't know what to get for <fill-in-the-blank>" to which I have an easy reply, "Do you know of Mary Roach? Here's her latest, Fuzz. <fill-in-the-blank> will love it."

Note: Fuzz will be released September 14.

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City of Flickering Light
Juliette Fay

Thanks to the recent Wine & Words event where we sold books, I began reading (listening to, to be precise) City of Flickering Light Juliette Fay was one of the five terrific authors speaking at the event. When she began her talk by saying she became fascinated by the history of Hollywood, I admit my initial reaction was "mmmmmmm not interested,” but that didn't last long. Did you know the movie industry started on the East Coast, primarily in New Jersey and New York? Thomas Edison was able to foresee that it was someday going to be a big deal, so he created a trust of companies and only those companies could use his movie camera, and he sent thugs out to break the cameras of companies that used competing cameras? (See what I mean? Interesting!) By moving to Hollywood, California, movie productions were not only hopefully out of reach of Edison's thugs, but also enjoyed a lot more sunny days that made it easier to film. Hollywood was also a place where two groups that were often disenfranchised could find meaningful work: women and Jews. In City of Flickering Light, Irene Van Beck, Millie Martin, and Henry Weiss run away from a traveling burlesque show by jumping off a train. From there, they make their way towards Hollywood. Irene is wicked smart, Millie is pretty and sweet, and Henry is kind, generous, trustworthy, and offers a sense of protection. Each has a personal history that has led him/her to the burlesque show and now Hollywood. I'm enjoying this story of three friends in a time and place that I never would have guessed I'd have much interest in. I wasn't alone is being interested in City of Flickering Light, we barely had enough copies at the event, returning to the bookstore with just 3 copies! They're even signed by Juliette Fay, but I believe we're down to 2 now. Let us know if you want one ;)

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Slow Fire Burning
Paula Hawkins

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers—books written by such authors as Tana French, Lucy Foley, and Alex Michaelides, you don't want to miss the new one by Paula Hawkins, A Slow Fire Burning. I listened to this on It's narrated by Rosamund Pike, who does an excellent job. A man in his 20s, handsome and a bit of a player, is found dead on a houseboat. The author circles around to the truth of what happened by rotating through the women who knew him: Laura, the last person known to have been with the man, who has suffered brain damage from a childhood accident; Carla, the victim's aunt, who is already suffering another close family member's death; and Miriam, a nosy neighbor. All three have reasons to resent the victim. As the author did in her previous books, Girl on the Train and Into the Water, Hawkins slowly and methodically takes us through the histories of the characters and those around them. I struggled to hit pause when it was time for mundane things like sleeping, eating, and interacting with fellow humans. I highly recommend this one!


Sally Sally

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Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South
Margaret Renkl

I fell in love with Margaret Renkl’s sensibility and writing while reading Late Migrations. Reading her new book is like seeing an old friend and having an opportunity to catch up. Renkl’s familiar topics of the natural world and family are present, but she also discusses politics and religion, social justice, and arts and culture. She likens the structure of the book to the traditional Southern art form of the quilt. The lens she brings to the essays is that of a lifelong Southerner. She moves past stereotypes of the South to present her reality, introducing a variety of people, a love for the beauty of the South, and hope for the future of both the region and the country.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

Reading this book will take a commitment of time (it’s 640 pages) and imagination, but will result in a reminder of the ways in which we’re interconnected and can be hopeful about both the present and the future.

There are three story lines: Konstance, a fourteen year old girl on a mission into outer space in the future; Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides during the siege of Constantinople in 1453; Seymour and Zeno, involved in a shooting in a public library in Idaho in 2020.
Woven together with the storylines is the ancient text of Cloud Cuckoo Land, a mythical paradise,

The importance of stories, books, and librarians also woven throughout the book, which is dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come.”

Characters who are in perilous situations, who are young and outcasts/vulnerable, but who are resourceful and courageous in ways that inspire hope.

Give yourself over to the power of story, and settle into one which just
might change your life.

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The Fox and I
Catherine Raven

A number of years ago, when my youngest niece was still a child, she was at our cabin with me. We were standing in the yard when we noticed a vixen and a kit at the edge of the woods a number of yards away. I knew that foxes had a den nearby and had seen the adults, but this was my first spotting of one of their young. My niece and the kit made eye contact, and slowly began to move toward each other. It was amazing to watch their connection, but as they moved closer and closer, I started to get nervous. Apparently, the mother fox shared that feeling, because she dashed forward and moved her baby back into the woods.

I thought of that incident several time while listening to The Fox and I. The author lived a mostly solitary existence in a remote area in Montana. She’d left home at 15, had been a National Park ranger and earned a PhD in biology, but lacked friends, social skills, and health insurance. A fox began dropping by to visit her at 4:15 each afternoon. book coverHer scientific background had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, but as she spent time with Fox she got to know him as an individual and they became friends.  Endearingly, she read The Little Prince, which is a story of a prince who became friends with a fox, to Fox. This friendship changed the author in significant ways.

I’ve never read a book quite like this one, and I found it moving in unexpected ways. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hunt up my copy of The Little Prince and re-read it.

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Miss Benson’s Beetle
Rachel Joyce

Last spring I was collecting suggestions for books for the Sister Wolf group to read, and two people enthusiastically recommended Miss Benson’s Beetle. The book lived up to their hype! It opens in London in 1950, when the city and its inhabitants were struggling to overcome the effects of World War II. Among them is Margery Benson, an ineffective teacher who snapped one day at school. She left her job and home on a quest for the golden beetle of New Caledonia. She hired an assistant, Enid Petty, who was spectacularly unfitted for the position. The story picks up speed, sometimes with the breathless pace of slapstick. Benson and Petty are complex and unforgettable characters who become friends while dealing with catastrophe after catastrophe. book coverThe book shows us the power of women’s friendships and the importance of following one’s dreams. It’s both laugh out loud funny and poignant.
Joyce is also the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. If you missed that book, it is also charming and quirky.






The Saint Patrick’s Day Hero
Doug Mayfield

If you follow my reviews, you know I read books within a fairly narrow range. This book falls under the Historical Fiction category and if you had handed me the book with that piece of information, I doubt seriously that I would have read it. BUT several people whom I trust said I should read it and I would like it. Well, we’ll see about that. I got the book and started to read the first couple pages…..and I was surprised. The book was very readable AND interesting. The next thing I knew, I’d read 50 pages.

This book should come with a warning that you may start reading it and not be able to put it down. This from a reader who reads more books with more references to spaceflight than to literature.

The way I would describe the story is “Smooth.” The story flows and the way it is sewn together is just seamless. You’re really not sure how the story will end until you get to the last few pages, where you finally understanding how the tragedy in this professor’s life came about and how it caused so many changes in his life.

I have three things to say:

  • You’re going to like this book
  • Once you start it you won’t want to put it down
  • You will like how it reads

I don’t read 400 page books in a few days….but I did.


Activation Degradation
Marina J. Lostetter

I’ve never read a sci-fi book that started the way this one did. It begins in the middle of a raging battle. Unit Four, a robot that’s part machine and part biotic, is going through accelerated development in its growth pod containing a primordial soup. With metal-clad bones and the latest CPU, it’s being rushed into activation. It hasn’t even downloaded all its data files before being thrust from the pod. Along with its 4 sisters, it’s expected to enter into battle in a matter of minutes, but can barely crawl. The Unit’s Handler communicates to them that they must get out and save the station. Unit Four fumbles but drags itself into the fray. Although the download seems incomplete, it doesn’t have time to deal with that now.

A great read about a station protector whose one job is to get rid of any attackers, at all costs. But Unit Four, for whatever reason (incomplete downloads?) quickly developed some different ways of dealing with the attack. The development of Unit Four from a robot to something else is really fun reading. I’d recommend the book to any Sci-Fi reader.




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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong

This is a book I originally wrote off because I judged it based on the cover art (a cardinal book sin.) It took a glowing recommendation to get me intrigued and I’m so glad I remedied my mistake and picked up a copy. Almost poetry in a novel format, this book has beautiful language, metaphors, and a compulsively readable structure. It is hard to sum up the plot because, despite it being on the shorter side, this book covers a lot of ground and doesn’t follow just one story arc. Overall, it is a coming-of-age story about growing into your sexuality, the immigrant experience, trauma, death, and family. The book feels deeply personal and is certainly influenced by the author’s own experiences as a Vietnamese immigrant. Although not a happy read per se, I read this book feverishly over the course of two days and loved the experience, even if it nearly made me cry from time to time.

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The Secret History
Donna Tartt

I have an aversion to longer books as well as books written to mimic classic novels but this novel made me reconsider my preferences. From the very beginning, we are told that a character named Bunny is going to be killed and that his death is going to lead to the downfall of his friends and then we go back in time to learn the long lead-up to his demise. Our main character is Richard, who attends a small liberal arts college and manages to get into an incredibly exclusive classics program there. He is then enmeshed into the clique of classics majors and watches detachedly as they spiral into immorality. The Secret History reads like a dark and messed-up modern-day classic and is a must-read for people who enjoy dark academia. I both read this and listened to the audiobook which is voiced by the author. Her voices for the different characters were amazing and really heightened my experience.

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They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera

This is a surprisingly uplifting and funny read for a book in which both characters are aware they will die within 24 hours. This book follows Mateo and Rufus, teenage strangers who share only one major thing in common--they both get a call around midnight from a company called Death-Cast that lets them know today is the day they will die. In this world, everyone gets a phone call from this mysterious company to let them know the date (but not time or reason) of their deaths. Also in this world there is an app which people who know they are going to die can use to meet other people with whom to live their last day. This is how our unlikely pair meet. The story is slow to start with a somewhat wide cast of characters that all weave together to make a beautifully encapsulated story by the end. I raced through this book to find out how our characters live their final day and attempt to come to terms with imminent deaths.

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The Final Girl Support Group
Grady Hendrix

Set in a world where the best-known horror movies are based on real events, a group of women who survive their killers band together over this shared trauma. “Final Girl” refers to the trope in horror films where only one person, usually a woman, makes it out alive to tell the story of their would-be killer. This story picks up when one of the women in the group is murdered by her killer, finally finishing what he started years before and making the rest of the group realize that none of them are safe because it is only a matter of time before their killers return. Darkly comedic, irreverent, and especially enjoyable if you are a fan of some of the original slasher films from the 70s and 80s that the events and characters in the book are based upon. 

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The House in the Cerulean Sea
T. J. Klune

For fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and The Umbrella Academy, this novel takes place in a world where unusual children live in group homes managed by the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. This novel follows Linus, a rather average 40-year-old caseworker for the department. Always reliable, Linus is sent on a classified assignment to visit an orphanage with children who are deemed especially dangerous (as far as magical children go) and a unique caretaker. Linus has serious reservations but through his time at the home he learns that everything is not as it seems. This is an adult novel that could easily be enjoyed by older teenagers who don’t mind reading about middle-aged people ;). Light-hearted with a moral. Romantic without being sappy. The book is simply delightful. 



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Charlotte McConaghy

I'm not sure I can do this book justice in a short review but will give it a try. This is a very unusual story, set in the future-perhaps sooner than we think. The wild animals are all extinct and fish are not far behind. There are still a few Arctic Terns who migrate from the Arctic to Antarctica and back every year. Franny Stone has managed to band 3 of them. She talks her way onto a fishing boat, hoping they will take her south, following the migration of the terns. She promises the captain the terns will lead them to fishing grounds along the way. As the story unfolds, we discover Franny is chasing more than the birds. When Franny's dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk? You may falter as you read, but keep on as the last two chapters will make this a read well worth your time.

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Darned if You Do: A Needlecraft Mystery
Monica Ferris

During a bad wind and rain storm in Excelsior, MN, a huge tree goes through the roof of Tom Riardon's house. The police find a mountain of junk when they break in to get Tom to the hospital. His only relative, a cousin named Valentina, comes to help him and clear out the hoarders stuff. Betsy and her Crewel World Monday Bunch volunteer to help. Tom is murdered in the hospital and Valencia becomes the prime suspect. Betsy puts on her private detective hat to find the real murderer. Monice Ferris lives in Minnesota and has written a series of "cozy" mysteries about Betsy, her friends, and the Crewel World Needlepoint Shop. If you enjoy the author and her mysteries, you'll have lots of reading ahead of you.


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Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son
Quderi Homeira

This is an inspiring memoir about a mother's unimaginable choice in the face of oppression and abuse in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. At the age of 13, Homeira defies the law and risks her freedom to teach reading and writing to children in the neighborhood.

Homeira writes letters of longing to her son, whom she hasn't been allowed to see since he was 18 months old. In the letters is her story of growing up first under the Russians and then the Taliban. She gives us a clear picture of the status of women. With the recent withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan, we hope Homeira's story will not be repeated again and again.



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Angel & Hannah
Ishle Yi Park

I don’t often get around to reading poetry: I’m all about novels. However, this beautiful, beautiful book is a novel consisting entirely of poems! It’s about the love between a girl from Queens, the daughter of Korean immigrants, and a Puerto Rican boy living in Brooklyn. I have never felt so privy to the intimacy of others, joyful and sorrowing. It feels autobiographical when you read the author’s bio and acknowledgements. I highly recommend this book.

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Madeline Miller

I had been curious about Circe, and Cascade’s review nudged me into picking it up. What a brilliant book! It’s a fascinating look at how various Greek gods and famous mortals related to each other in a way that I had not glimpsed before, all in a very readable tale. But more fascinating still are the character portraits, Miller’s take on what makes these sometimes familiar stories develop the way they do. Circe, the witch who turned Odysseus’s sailors into pigs, is especially complex and surprisingly relatable. How could an immortal have a happy ending when her life is never going to end? Circe makes you think about mortality and morality while keeping you entertained.

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The Kitchen God’s Wife
Amy Tan

I learned from the wonderful Amy Tan documentary, now available on Netflix, that she wrote The Kitchen God’s Wife in response to her mother’s request that Amy write about her truth. It isn’t exactly a fictionalized retelling of her experiences growing up and suffering a terrible marriage in China; many things are changed in the book. But it captures so much about a life of incredible challenges overcome. Like Joy Luck Club, the book explores the relationship between an immigrant mother and her Americanized daughter. However, Joy Luck Club tells several stories so it doesn’t provide the depth and detail of Kitchen God’s Wife. This is a feminist story, but there are male characters who demonstrate that men can be good, loving people. However, the characters that make this book so powerful are women who have the strength to break away from horrible situations, helping each other even as they struggle with conflicts with each other. It also describes what life in China was like during the turbulent years before, during, WWII. I couldn’t put The Kitchen God’s Wife down.



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Missing Words
Loree Westron

At 160 pages, this is not a long book and I read it in an evening. There is more depth to it than one might think, even though the real story is told in bits and pieces around the narrative that involves Jenny trying to find the intended recipient of a postcard.

Jenny is middle-aged, one daughter died two years previously, her husband and other daughter have drifted away, and her only friend at work (another mail sorter) is soon to retire. She wonders if perhaps she is destined to simply lose everyone.

Although we see exchanges with her friend, her husband, her daughter, her mother, and others, they are not fully-formed characters, nor do they need to be. Jenny is the focus, and it is her thoughts and actions that have center stage.

It is available now as an eBook on Kobo. Remember to sign in as a Beagle and Wolf customer.

Here’s a link to an interesting interview with the author.




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The Wedding Pact
Katee Robert

This is the second book in the O’Malley’s Series. I recommend reading the first book, Tbook coverhe Marriage Contract before this one because of SPOILERS!! The book follows the story of Carrigan O’Malley. Seamus, her father, has had enough of Carrigan slipping through the cracks, and has told her she has a month to choose a husband. During this time, she goes on dates with each of the guys on her father’s list. In between the dates, she is dealing with James Halloran. The Hallorans are the O'Malley's number one enemy. Both Carrigan and James know that being around one another is dangerous, but they can’t help having each other on their minds more often than not. Carrigan is conflicted between following her father’s orders and being a good daughter, and continuing to have her last few weeks of freedom to do what she chooses. I really like Katee Robert’s books, and this one did NOT disappoint! 9/10 book for anyone 18+.

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Witch Please
Ann Aguirre

This is a fantasy about the forbidden fondness between Danica, who is a witch, and Titus, who is mundane. Danica and her cousin Clementine live together and have always been close. They recently made a pact to protect themselves from relationships after a bad break up. Both girls work at a shop that fixes things for people and one day while Clementine was out of town, Titus stumbled into the shop to have his oven fixed. There is where Danica and Titus first meet, and they are both stunned by one another. Titus already wants to see her more, while Danica knows that she cannot pursue anything with Titus because he is mundane. Both the Waterhouse girls come from a long line of witches, and their grandmother has forbidden them to date anyone who is not also a witch. When I read this book, it brought me back to my youth when I used to read books on an app called Wattpad. It was super fun to get the same feelings while reading this book. I would recommend this book for anyone 16 and older. I would rate the story of the book an 8/10 but would put it on my favorites shelf of 10/10 books.



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The Woman They Could Not Silence

Kate Moore

I was completely dumbfounded by this book and I loved it! Moore tells the true story of Elizabeth Packard’s fight for freedom. Her minister husband is angry with her because she dares to openly disagree with his theological views. In 1860, he has her committed to an insane asylum. Elizabeth fights for her freedom while her children grow up without her. Dr. McFarland, the Illinois State hospital’s superintendent, proves to be just as evil has her husband. I was completely taken aback by the laws that gave men the right to treat their wives in this way. I was also amazed by the changes that Elizabeth was able to help make in the laws to protect other women from the horrors she had to endure. You will not want to miss out on Moore’s massive research and historical account of Elizabeth Packard.





The Book of Form and Emptiness

Ruth Ozeki

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

For those of us convinced of the generative power of good literature, this statement can be altered to read “When the student is ready, the book appears,” and none of the meaning will have essentially changed. Ruth Ozeki’s book, The Book of Form and Emptiness, is one of those transformative books. Ozeki is an educator, a famous teaching writer on Buddhist thought, cosmology, and everyday practice. She tells a story that illustrates the idea or process she’s investigating, in exactly the way gifted storytellers have introduced new matrices of thought and being through millennia. She does this with a good story, clearly told, with events and characters the reader empathizes and emotes with, and the result is that her message becomes self-evident. The world has become confusing (especially recently) and the path to the future isn’t as clear as I might like it to be… well, so it seems to me. Are you too on a personal quest for future change and meaning? Then, Gentle Reader, you are a Student Seeker. “When the student is ready, the book appears.”  Here’s the book. [Spoiler Alert:] Not only is this ‘the book’, it’s one of the story’s characters……. AND IT SPEAKS!! 

Note: this book will be published September 21.


Natasha Brown

Natasha Brown's Assembly seats itself confidently on the unsettled border between compact prose, and expansive poetry. It's an internal conversation with herself, as she reflects on the component layers of her life: professional striving for success in her education, career goals, accumulated wealth and its signifiers, as well as social mobility. She writes about constructed identity: prejudice, class, race (she is a dynamic black woman) and its exclusions. Personal relationships: as lover, as friend, as child to parent. And then, with a painful bare-knuckled rap she tests for the clear resonance of soundness, or the dull 'thunk' of pretense and cant. She does this with unflinching honesty and rare skill. At a short 102 pages, this is a dynamic eye-opener.

ATTN. Bookgroups: This would be perfect for a Women's Reading Group, or for a group focused on Current Events.

Note: this book will be released September 14.

Would you like to be a guest reviewer? Email Sally at

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