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The Book Beat - May 24, 2021

Happy (late) Monday, book friends! Before we get to the news, I have two things to share. First, I'm going to start posting every Monday (sorry it's late today!). It's easier for me to write a bit on the weekends, and it's also the perfect day to share info about new book releases hitting stores on Tuesday. Did you know Tuesdays are when books are released? If not, you do now!

Second, this week I'm thrilled to be reporting on the inaugural U.S. Book Show, a three-day virtual book conference hosted by Publishers Weekly. This phenomenal book/author/speaker showcase will feature keynote speakers (Oprah Winfrey, Keanu Reeves, and Elizabeth Warren are a few), the scoop on fall book releases, writer/book panels, panels about libraries and the future of the publishing industry post-pandemic, and so much more. It sounds like a can't-miss celebration of all things books, and I'm ecstatic to be attending.

I'm going to do three daily wrap-up posts on the blog, but will also be posting snippets of scoop on my Twitter (@readingwhilemom) and Instagram (@readingwhilemommying) feeds. Follow along and join the fun. You can start your fall reading list now and find out about fun upcoming releases like Keanu Reeves' new graphic novel series BRZRKR and a book I'm really looking forward to, Cloud Cuckoo Land by Pulizer-Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr. And lucky me gets to see Keanu speak in person. Whoa, indeed!

Here's a New York Times article that gives more info, particularly about the Oprah and Keanu panels. Some of the author/book panel participants I'm really excited about are listed below. Stanley Tucci talking food is worth the price of admission alone!

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Be a Revolution by Ijeoma Oluo (author of So You Want to Talk About Race)

What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry

City on Fire by Don Winslow

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr

Unrequited Infatutions: A Memoir by Stevie Van Zandt

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Pinkie Promises by Elizabeth Warren

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone (picture book) by Traci Todd, illus. by Christian Robinson

Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Sophie Blackall

How to Find What You're Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

Kaleidiscope by Brian Selznick

Sounds fab, right? I can't wait! Now onto some bookish news and reviews...

Get Set for Summer Reading!

I've been reading article after article about summer reading. Books to take the beach. Summer reading in general. How Almost-Post-Pandemic Summer Reading will be different than Pandemic Summer Reading.

Books and summer seem to go hand-in-hand. And now as vaccinations have increased across the country and pandemic restrictions have eased somewhat, the usual reading locales are available again: the beach, a plane, a car, your patio in the sun, a porch, or a coffeeshop. And as a relatively new convert to audiobooks, I suggest stocking up on a few of them as well. Running, walking, cleaning, driving to your vacation location, or even sitting on the beach or by the pool soaking up the sun are all ideal places to pop in some earbuds and let the absorbing tones of a memoir or fiction book wash over you.

Below I share some of the books on my radar for this summer. I've seen some of them shared on social media and I have early copies of a few to read and review for @NetGalley, so those will be coming soon. So get out your pen and paper to start your list or log into your GoodReads account and start clicking "Want to Read."

📘The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley - ⭐⭐⭐.3/5

Release Date: 5/25

Piper Parrish lives a quiet but fulfilling life on Frick Island, a small island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. After her fisherman husband Tom goes missing in a storm and is presumed dead, Piper shocks the townsfolk by interacting with Tom as if he is still alive. A close-knit group, the Frick Island residents hate to break her heart, so they go along with it. When Anders Caldwell, a journalist for a small-town paper, ends up on the island to cover its annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he's shocked to see everyone going along with Piper's delusion. As he learns more about the island and grows closer to Piper, he's conflicted about what to do, especially when his podcast What the Frick? about Piper's invisible husband goes viral.

I'm conflicted about this book. I enjoyed it, but the romance, storyline, humor, and characters just didn't gel enough to make it a standout for me. Anders is charming, in a klutzy, Clark-Kent kind of way. But, I don't feel like we saw/learned enough of Piper to really warm to her. Instead of showing us how wonderful she is, we're told over and over how much the townspeople adore her, even while she seems to be in a full blown mental crisis that they just ignore. I didn't see the twists coming, so that was a plus. Still, the "romance" between the two just seemed lukewarm at best, particularly because Tom's death isn't 100% certain. Plus, a detail about Tom is revealed rather late in the story that makes it seem like it was just added in to make Piper's attraction to Anders less questionable. The townspeople are charming in a cranky, stuck-in-their-ways way, but their hearts are revealed too late to really enjoy their addition to the story. Overall, this was an interesting storyline with sweet characters, but I was definitely left wanting more.

Much thanks to @NetGalley and #BerkleyPublishing for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

📘The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Release Date: 5/25

I read Rowley's The Editor, which I liked, but this one is getting even more hype. It sounds so good! And can we just take a moment to appreciate this adorable cover?

Synopsis: GUP, or Gay Uncle Patrick, adores his niece and nephew, Maisie and Grant. But when tragedy strikes and he's tasked with parenting them full time, can he fit parenting in with the other challenges of his life? Let the fun (?) begin!

📘Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Release Date: 6/1

Synopsis: At a raucous house party on a steamy night in the summer of 1983, the members of the Rivas family confront the challenges of their lives as the children of a famous actor.

📘The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Release Date: 6/15

Synopsis: A slew of mysterious killings, which seems to reference the Greek myth of Persephone in the Underworld, rock the University of Cambridge.

Read the articles I link to above for even more books to read this summer.

Of Werewolves and Men?

While researching a book about John Steinbeck, Professor Gavin Jones learned about three books that Steinbeck wrote but were never published (he wrote them before achieving recognition). Steinbeck destroyed two of them, but one did survive. It's part of a collection of Steinbeck papers in an archive at the University of Texas.

Written by Steinbeck over 90 years ago, Murder at Full Moon, is a horror story about a string of gruesome murders that take place under the full moon in a fictional California coastal town. Steinbeck wrote it under a pen name, Peter Pym. It even includes two illustrations drawn by Steinbeck himself. The supernatural subject matter is markedly different than the realistic novels about the Great Depression that brought him fame. As of now, Steinbeck's literary agents, McIntosh and Otis, refuse to publish it, saying that since Steinbeck wrote it under a pen name and didn't publish it during his lifetime, he obviously didn't want it shared. Professor Jones hopes they will change their minds. He's effusive in his praise of it and says it would be wonderful to see this side of the Nobel-Prize-winning author.

What I Listened to This Week...

🎧 Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This YA book is amazing. Easily one of the best books I read this year.

I listened to this book but also have the hard copy. First, the narration is spectacular. It's done by actress Isabella Star LaBlanc. In this article, Isabella shares behind-the-scenes scoop about the casting process and author Angeline Boulley praises Macmillan Audio for hiring a Native American actress to voice the first-person narrator of the story. Isabella is excellent! Her variation of accents--especially the differences between young-adult Daunis and her Native elders is precise and impressive.

A mix of YA coming-of-age, mystery, thriller, romance, #ownvoices, and fake dating, this story is a tour-de-force. While the engrossing main mystery plays out--who in the Ojibwe community is lacing meth with potent hallucinogenic mushrooms to create a lethal new drug that is killing Native kids--we learn about the narrator, 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine Firekeeper. Daunis is the daughter of Grace Fontaine, a member of the richest white family in town and Levi Firekeeper, a legendary hockey player from the local Ojibwe community. Daunis's birth rocked the town and continues to reverberate for Daunis today, as she struggles to reconcile her Native ethnicity with her life as a young woman on the cusp of venturing out to college in hopes of being a doctor. Yet, she's drawn into both the FBI's investigation of the meth operation and an attraction to the mysterious yet charming Jamie, the new recruit on her brother's hockey team.

This story grips your attention from the start and never lets go. Daunis is a thoroughly engaging character whose first-person narration resonates with heart, humor, fear, warmth, and complexity. Her romance with Jamie is equally compelling, as is the truly twisty, edge-of-your-seat mystery. The supporting characters are expertly drawn and entertain and engage, while helping to move the story along.

I especially loved how well information about Native American culture is organically interspersed throughout the narrative. Particularly fascinating were stories about how nature and the properties of its plants and resources inform Native American beliefs about life and the afterlife. It helped me form a new appreciation for the natural world around me (other than getting annoyed when mosquitoes ruin my outdoor reading time!).

Whether you're a young adult, adult, or middle-aged bookworm like myself, I highly recommend this original, bold, incredible book.

📸 Book Snaps of the Week 📸

Cover of the Week:

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

I prefer my book covers with bright, rich colors. This gorgeous cover definitely delivers on that!

Designed by Emily Osborne with an illustration by Fatima Baig (IG: @fatimarbaig), this cover features the main character of the novel, Azere, a Nigerian woman struggling with her promise to marry a Nigerian man to preserve her culture. The art is gorgeous and especially inventive with the love interest, Rafael Castellano (the white man who has stolen her heart) reflected in her glasses. Hot pink fills the spaces in the title type and fan-type imagery surrounds her portrait. This one boldly evokes the promise of a romantic yet emotionally poignant storyline. I can't wait to read it!

Synopsis: When a Nigerian woman falls for a man she knows will break her mother’s heart, she must choose between love and her family.

At twelve years old, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian man and preserve her culture, even after immigrating to Canada. Her mother has been vigilant about helping—well forcing—her to stay within the Nigerian dating pool ever since. But when another match-made-by-mom goes wrong, Azere ends up at a bar, enjoying the company and later sharing the bed of Rafael Castellano, a man who is tall, handsome, and…white.

When their one-night stand unexpectedly evolves into something serious, Azere is caught between her feelings for Rafael and the compulsive need to please her mother. Soon, Azere can't help wondering if loving Rafael makes her any less of a Nigerian. Can she be with him without compromising her identity? The answer will either cause Azere to be audacious and fight for her happiness or continue as the compliant daughter.

Please check back for my recaps of the U.S. Book Show & follow me along on the socials. I can't wait to see what publishers have in store for fall!

Have a great, book-filled week!

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