Juicy June Staff Picks
I’ve always loved books by Lisa See, and in my opinion, this one is her very best! I know that when I “talk back” to a book, it’s a good one! The inspiration for this story came from a book that See had in her library, written by a woman physician, Tan Yunxian, who lived during the Ming Dynasty in 14th Century China. See’s extensive research results in this compelling story, rich in cultural traditions.
The strong parallels between women’s issues in the 14th Century and women’s struggles in 2023 astounded me, especially in the areas of reproductive rights and women’s place in society. This is a story about women and the importance of the “circle of women” we embrace for unconditional support. This intriguing story, with its concubines and eunuchs, is educational and rich in culture. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating study of Chinese medicine and culture.
Featured for our May Wine & Words book club! Mink River is a beautifully written tale that takes place in a fictional Oregon coastal town, Neawanaka. Written in a style that alludes to magical realism, it follows the happenings of the locals in this small quiet town with an underlying theme of struggle, perseverance, and healing. A very whimsical and engaging story that is a perfect read for mud season! Doyle’s ability to utilize descriptors in a poetic way makes the imagery rich and easily imagined. The quirkiness and personalities of each of the characters are so well developed that it brings them to vibrant life. His writing style is less traditional and may be a little difficult to adjust to, but I love the lack of restraint in his style. With run-on sentences, interesting wording, and creative use of the English language, it has an element of the more authentically human. Pairs great with Ovum Wines; crisp white blends that reflect the coastal air and unique terroir of Oregon; magic in the glass to pair with magic on the page.
If you like stories about family dynamics that make your heart ache, this “unputdownable” read is for you! I understand why Oprah chose this as her Book Club Pick. Basically, it’s a story about the transformation of a family over time. The Padavano sisters (4 in all) live in the safe, lovable cocoon of their family home. The sisters are each other's best friends. They really know each other, inside and out. When the oldest sister marries a man with absolutely no connection to his own family, the direct opposite of the Padavano family, that “cocoon” slowly transforms as the sisters grow apart to go their own ways. I believe this story is relatable to many families over the course of time, yet it is hopeful, as the power of deep connection has the power to reconnect!
Lucy Hart, a twenty-something broke teacher assistant in California, has only one wish: to adopt Christopher, the young orphan obsessed with sharks she tutors after school. Turns out you can't live with 3 roommates and also adopt a child, as Christopher's caseworker regretfully informs her. But Lucy and Christopher's fortunes might change when Lucy gets a mysterious invitation from her favorite author, the reclusive Jack Masterson, writer of the beloved Clock Island children's series. Famous for his riddles and puzzles, Jack is offering a life-changing prize to 4 contestants - but in order to win, they will have to be very clever and very brave.
The Wishing Game is proof that just because adult life is full of harsh realities, that doesn't mean you can't embrace the whimsy and bravery of the stories we all loved as children.
The taboo topic of death and dying is presented in a clever and meaningful way in this story. A fascination with death has shaped Clover’s life since she was five years old. In fact, she feels more comfortable with the dying than with those living. As a Death Doula, Clover ushers the dying peacefully to their death by simply listening and encouraging them to reflect on their lives. Clover keeps notebooks for her clients, documenting their regrets, advice, and confessions. This is a provoking read, leading me to look at my own life and understand that maybe the biggest risk in life is taking no risk at all!
Jane Raine has had nobody but herself to depend on since her father, a noted author and professor, left her alone and penniless at the tender age of 13. Her experience as a foster kid and her dead-end job as a waitress have uniquely prepared her for her new career path as the assistant to the volatile and demanding Edward Rosen, a preeminent Toronto lawyer who has scared off every other assistant to date. Jane is the first assistant he's had who is capable of volleying his banter back. After the first couple of rocky weeks, the two strike up a friendship. Both with their own complicated pasts, Edward and Jane are both slowly learning that they can lean on each other - until a secret from Edward's past threatens to blow up everything they love. Will Jane continue to rely only on herself, or can she learn to forgive the mistakes of the past and forge a new path forward?
Jane Eyre was the first classic I truly fell in love with as a young reader. I find myself justifying the story to those who see it as a direct contradiction to the modern idea of what love and partnerships should look like. Melodie Edwards not only manages to pay homage to the original story but also interprets the dynamics of Jane and Edwards's courtship in the context of mutual trauma and healing. Full of the caustic, witty banter and longing that attracted me to this story in the first place, I have to say I enjoyed this retelling almost as much as the original!
This story holds more depth than a mere cheesy love story. According to author Colleen Hoover, it’s not written for entertainment but rather as a reflection on the ramifications victims of domestic violence must live with. Growing up in a family filled with domestic violence, Hoover admits this novel was the “most grueling thing she’s ever written.” It’s a captivating story with a powerful message. I’m glad I read it!
Demons, Witches, Spirits, Realms; The Witch King has it all. This exquisite world comes to life under Martha Wells’ craftsmanship. Kai, a Demon trapped on Earth after a devastating multi-realm attack, wakes up in a new body surrounded by people with bad intentions. After disposing of them, he embarks on a journey to find out what the hell happened to him, his found family, and the tenuous new world order he helped to bring about.
The Witch King is an exciting exploration of revolution, love, and found family. It helped me escape this world for a while, then return with new wonder for the everyday magic here.
The City of Brass naturally caught my eye on the shelf (honestly, anything shiny and gold usually does), and–somehow–my random intuition was greatly rewarded! S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass weaves together fantasy intrigue, Middle Eastern mythology, compelling politics, and a vivid, bustling city that seems to rise from the pages, beckoning you to lose yourself in the story. Nahri, a con artist who hunts for her marks on the streets of 18th-century Cairo, accidentally summons an ancient djinn warrior and is thrust into a world of peril–her only refuge being the mythical city of Daevabad. But once she and Dara (the warrior) arrive at the titular Brass City, they find that the danger is far from gone. Fans of Arabian Nights, 18th century Egypt, hints of romance, and a wildly compelling storyline will surely enjoy this book!
Rage, Love, and Hope permeate every page of Dimaline’s newest epic novel. Witches rise from the ashes, forming covens to save the world from the patriarchal capitalist practices that left it in flames. A North American coven is gathering, picked by spoons blessed by an ancestor and maybe fate itself.
Venco is an excellent story with beautifully flawed characters and writing that draws readers in and will not let them go. This urban fantasy, taking place in cities and roadside motels, masterfully weaves old problems and new into a thrilling tapestry with humorous highlights and intriguing shadows. Venco is perfect for lovers of a bit of practical magic, dark fantasy, and a penchant for road trips.
Samantha Leach and her best friend Elissa bonded at a young age in the affluent suburbs of the East Coast. They came of age in the early aughts, worshiping such female celebrities as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie. Their emulation of this toxic celebrity culture landed Samantha in the principal's office, but it sent Elissa to the dark Troubled Teen Industry. While Leach lost touch with her friend after she was sent away to this punitive version of boarding school, Elissa ended up bonding with two girls named Alyssa and Alissa, both with their own complicated behavioral backgrounds.
Ultimately, all three girls would meet tragic ends at a young age. Leach's investigation digs into what happened to these girls and why all three ended up spiraling after they left the Troubled Teen "schools" where their parents had hoped they would find their ways. This is a compelling piece of journalism covering the intersection of wealth and privilege, predatory capitalism, and the opioid crisis.
Reading Soil and Spirit is like listening to your eccentric uncle, who has lived many lives, talk about his passions. Every essay is poetry, appreciation, and exploration. Chaskey reflects on the nearly infinite connections that make the world around us. A human’s place in this vast network should be a humble one, a harmonious one. He writes like a breeze, gently caressing each topic and sometimes meandering away, but always joyful. If you need to be reminded of the wonder in our world, this is the book for you.
George Saunders is a writer best known for his short stories and his novel Lincoln in the Bardo. He’s taught creative writing at Syracuse University for twenty years, and incongruously, has an undergraduate degree in engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain successfully takes the material Saunders teaches in one of his classes at Syracuse and offers it to readers and writers alike, identifying how to create and appreciate fiction.
Saunders’ engineering brain is on full display as he breaks down seven classic Russian short stories. Each short story is presented, followed by an essay or two by Saunders that deconstructs why these Russian classics still endure today. Saunders’ success as a teacher is also on full display. His essay after the first short story, for example, breaks down the story page by page, so that the reader is introduced gradually into his analysis.
One of the reasons I enjoy novels is I appreciate the commitment I need to make as a reader to get absorbed in the story. For that reason, I’ve never enjoyed short stories as much, but this book has changed my thinking, as I now realize how effective and engaging a short story can be in highlighting truths in a shorter format. Saunders’ book also underscores the importance of understanding and articulating the important topics in our lives.
How do you identify something that’s missing from your life if you never really experienced it in the first place? Reading this book was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. Dr. Gibson breaks down the experience of being raised in an emotionally immature household using language that is both blunt and understanding. Each chapter is interspersed with anecdotes from Gibson’s clients illustrating the many ways in which dysfunctional relationships with our parents can manifest in adulthood, as well as techniques to help you release the emotional baggage of your past and manifest the emotionally mature future each of us deserves. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to anyone looking to heal and grow their inner emotions.
Even if you are not a religious person, the Qur’an stands as a beautiful collection of poetic, lyrical writing that can speak to anyone, regardless of faith or belief. This particular translation has been spoken highly of by scholars, educators, and practitioners alike. This was the Qur’an I used all through my anthropological, art history, and religious studies in college. I found the poetry moving and the presentation of core doctrine easily approachable and understandable. The author writes in an engaging and more linguistically relevant way that makes it easier to read and appreciate. Islam, as a faith, as well as a component of many ethnic identities, is often misunderstood. Reading the Qur’an is a great way to start to understand such a widely practiced faith, and I think this translation has something to offer to everyone. Some of my favorite suras (or chapters) are on Mary and Jesus, views on women and their rights, as well as the Muslim practice of Zakat, or giving back to your community in a meaningful and fulfilling way. If you are looking to expand your spiritual or religious knowledge or like to be challenged to view things in a different way, I recommend reading this translation.
Do you adore creative cocktails, celebrating wonderful authors, and eye-catching illustrations? Well, buddy, this is the book for you. You get to learn about fantastic women and some weird booze. I’ve made a few of these cocktails and enjoyed sipping the lovely concoctions whilst reading about the women who inspired them.
This book is for all the millennials out there! Somehow we’ve become the age where we are supposed to be responsible, functioning adults, but many of us still have absolutely no idea what's going on. This book was such a fun and strangely helpful read! This book covers a multitude of topics, from the biggest lies we tell ourselves to navigating social media, the right way to load a dishwasher, and how to survive until payday! This is a perfect gift book for the new adult or for someone who needs a laugh about the pitfalls of trying to be a put-together, grown-up sort of person.
The year is 1888, and bodies are turning up in the dark alleys of London. A vicious murderer is on the loose, and Audrey is determined to figure out why. Armed with her growing knowledge of forensic medicine, curiosity, and a new friend, the investigation begins. In order to succeed, Audrey will need to battle society's expectations and face an evil much closer to home than she could imagine. A thrilling tale that made my blood run cold. I enjoyed the description of forensic medicine, and the mystery kept me awake late at night. I am proud to say I solved the mystery before the book was over and I hope you do too! I've started reading book two, Hunting Prince Dracula, and am happy to report the story continues and is just as enthralling. Enjoy!
Even though it’s almost summer, I long for the macabre during this particularly rainy season. This book fulfilled that craving! The reader follows Marin, an orphan that goes to live with her late mother’s former friend and to work as a nanny for her children. The children are endearing but odd at times, and some unfortunate “accidents” begin to put the girl on edge. Being a gothic horror with a pinch of sapphic romance, I’ve never devoured a book so fast! If you are a fan of The Addams Family or The Haunting of Bly Manor, I highly recommend this read!
The loss of a loved one is not an easy experience. Kit and her mother struggle to find normality after the passing of her father. They catch a glimpse of hope when a letter arrives from a previously unknown grandmother. Her dad's mother. In hopes of learning more about her father and the reason behind hiding her grandma from her, Kit takes a trip to Rosemont, a charming town in the middle of nowhere. But something isn't quite right about Rosemont. The people worship the Starling surname but seem to be hiding something from her. Kit begins to worry there might be something lurking in the woods of the town. And it might be the very reason her dad wanted to keep her from this place. A contemporary fantasy perfect for fans of mystery, roses, and magic.
Casey leads a normal life. She goes to school, hangs with her best friend Ruth, and fights with her big sister Sutton. When Sutton goes missing, Casey sees even more clearly how much everyone around her praises and loves Sutton. Little did they know that Sutton is mean, manipulative, and out to get Casey. This makes things confusing when Sutton is found and remembers Casey. She also smiles at Casey and wishes to hang out with her. Casey is convinced her sister is faking, but what if she's not? If this person is not Sutton, then who is this imposter, and what happened to her sister? A heart-wrenching story that made me cry. A reminder to hold those you love close to your heart so they won't be ripped away.
What would have happened had the Prince not kissed Sleeping Beauty and woken her up? She would have slept through the destruction of her people and woken up emaciated and feral. That’s what! Here lies another excellent twisted fairytale to add to your to-be-read stack. Boom! Studios continue to produce fantastic limited-run comics with really freakin’ engaging stories. Amazing art and a cool layout are all part of the comic experience, and this would be a great choice to get acquainted with comics for the first time, and if you’re already an aficionado, you’ll quickly see what a good choice it is. This team also worked on The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, so if you liked that, pick this up!
The One and Only Ruby is the third book in a trilogy by Katherine Applegate. If you and the young people in your life fell in love with Ivan in The One and Only Ivan, then you will want to get this book– and you will want to read it aloud. The star of this book is a young orphaned elephant, Ruby, who was sold to Big Top Mall and Video Arcade after living in an elephant orphanage in Africa. Now Ruby has found her home in a wildlife sanctuary but still struggles with memories of her past. In her young life, she has suffered much at the hands of humans, but she has also received incredible kindness from humans– representing both the worst and the best of us. This book made me contemplate that humankind might be responsible for many of the problems in the world, and we are also responsible for the solutions.
What I enjoyed most about the book was the advice Ruby is given from the adult elephants in the wildlife sanctuary– advice we can all take to heart:
We are not our best selves without kindness
We are not our best selves without wonder
We are not our best selves without courage
We are not our best selves without gratitude
Looking for fun, informative activities to do over the summer to help grow your kid's obsession with nature and all of the beauty it holds? Look no further than this wonderful guide by the UK’s bestselling foraging author!
Foraging with Kids has detailed yet simply put information, wonderful illustrations, and delicious recipes and activities for the whole family. I love how the author includes fun tidbits and unique historical facts about each plant, herb, or mushroom. This is the perfect book to help curate a wonderful day outside!
This is a book definitely written for readers of all ages, even adults! It is narrated by Johannes, an exuberant, wild dog living in a small island park with his animal friends; three bison, Sonja squirrel, Yolanda pelican, and Angus raccoon. It is Johannes’ job to run the park daily, then report to his friends what he sees. When change begins to happen in the park, the animals must come together to discuss options for dealing with it. This story will help the reader see the world through the perspective of animals who share our environment. This soulful story of friendship, flexibility, adaptability, and commitment is wise, funny, and best of all, includes a canine hero!
Young thieves, secret twins, stolen diamonds, and murder-mystery intrigue is Loot. When March McQuinn, the son of the cat-burglar, Alfie McQuinn, is told by his dying father to “find jewels,” he discovers a twin sister he never knew he had and is promptly picked up by social services to be taken to an orphanage. But March and his sister are well-trained in the arts of sneak-thievery, and they both know one good heist could set them up for life. Alongside a witty cast of characters, the McQuinns set out to seize their destiny through the only way they know how: conning and stealing. Essentially a young intro to the world of thrilling heists (think “young Ocean’s Eleven”), Loot ignites the fuse of a story that burns at a breakneck pace and finishes with a bang.
This is the perfect introduction to games like Dungeons and Dragons for all nerdy parents. This guide is a quick and easy intro to how to roll dice, create characters, and have the most immersive gaming experience possible. As someone who picked up D&D as a post-pandemic activity, I fully understand how overwhelming it can seem to get into the hobby without a proper introduction. There is just so much going on! And while the possibility of anything is one of the big draws to the game, it can also be kinda intimidating. So I absolutely recommend this book, and then I invite you to join us for our community Dungeons and Dragons nights here at the store!
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Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most well-known poets and short story writers in the American literary canon. His poetry is dark and mysterious, heart-wrenching and beautiful. I have always loved his poems and short stories for the imagery, the excitement, and the emotional relatability. This is a beautifully illustrated book that not only provides pictures that follows the poetry themes but also gives definitions of less common or more advanced words, explanations, and anecdotes in a fun and approachable way for younger readers. This is a great book if you love poetry and you want your children to get into it as well. It has a little something for everyone. This anthology takes 25 of Poe’s most popular (and more appropriate) poems, has an introduction as well as pages in the back with basic facts and information, as well as prompts for further discussion on the poetry, which I think makes it more engaging.
Sylvie lives in the mountains and loves exploring the forest near her home and adventuring far and wide. She is not afraid of anything. Until one day, the forest seemed darker and too quiet. She saw a glint of eyes and snapping teeth, and it seemed like the shadows moved. Terrified, she runs home and, slowly, the fear of what she thought she saw begins to take over. She keeps it a secret, scared that she will be made fun of. What will happen when she can’t keep the secret anymore?
This is such a beautiful story that teaches children about anxiety and the importance of vulnerability and communication. With stunning illustrations, this is the perfect family book that helps children begin to understand their emotions.
There are a multitude of reasons for children to be anxious about their future, as well as worry about tomorrow. This picture book lets kids understand they’re not alone in their anxiety. The beautiful illustrations and gentle words serve as an opportunity for your child to “open up” and talk about their feelings. The last pages of the book are dedicated to parents, including “Tips for Managing Worries” and even a worry plan.
This is a story of family and finding home no matter where you are. The colorful pictures will keep any reader engaged, and the tale of a day in the life of a young Afghan refugee child will touch anyone who cracks open this book. The carpet in this story is a place to gather, eat, and tell stories, and is very much a center of life for the family as they navigate their days. If you’re looking for a story that is both near and far, this is it. Perfect for reading out loud!
I am not a fan of spiders– they give me the heeby-jeebies. I was so thankful to see this book come out for young readers because spiders are so important to the ecosystem, and they do deserve more respect and understanding! I loved how the author wrote from this spider's point of view, bringing new light to how minuscule they really are and how hard they have to work to survive. This book has such wonderful information on how incredibly helpful spiders are! My favorite new fact is that many scientists call spiders “fly tigers” because they are so good at eating all of those bugs and flies that we humans get annoyed by and consider pests.
It may not make me want to give a spider a cuddle (though this spider is pretty cute), but this book gave me new respect for these tiny warriors.
This book is an ode to the highly imaginative child! What fun! What colors! What adventures! If ever there was a story to encourage crazy dreams and belief in the impossible, this is it. Everyone will come away from this world a little more likely to see the magic in our world and a bit more likely to indulge in child-like imagination. Let’s all take a lesson from Manolo and go looking for unicorns!