Hello and welcome to A Good Book’s newsletter. We’re still at the same location we’ve always been, twenty-two years on now. It’s okay that you might think we’re farther north than we are. Distances get hard when you get older. We don’t judge. The walk from the store is definitely longer in the afternoon.
Anyway, what does the Summer Solstice bring to the shelves?
Let's just get this one out of the way right up front. We feel terribly seen with Emily Gravett's new picture book, Too Much Stuff, which is the story about a pair of soon-to-be-parent magpies, who go a little fruity-tooty about the birth of their upcoming chicks. Naturally, their nest cannot contain all the stuff they acquire, and there is a catastrophic cascade of noisy things, stuffy things, things with cords, and blankets down to the forest floor. Fortunately, the rest of the animal kingdom is ready to help, and everyone finds a use for all this stuff. Hooray!
We're still not reading it as a metaphor for the stacks of books around the house.
Meanwhile, Christi Johnson has put together a marvelous book that hoops in on that Venn Diagram overlap between modern witchcraft and embroidery. Mystical Stiches: Embroidery for Personal Empowerment and Magical Embellishment features nearly two hundred original designs that are inspired by rich folk traditions and metaphysical affirmations. Magic is the art of symbolizing change through the application of craft, and nothing says "I have focused my desire and created change" like needlepointing out a complicated bit of sigil craft.
Also out this week is Emma Brodie's debut novel, Songs in Ursa Major. It follows the career of one Jane Quinn, apple-cheeked innocent whose angelic voice brings her to the attention of all the sharks that swim in the recording industry. Jane, of course, is dew-eyed for awhile, but as the squeeze sets in, she starts to see the world as it is and decides she's not going to play their game. It's the dark underbelly of '70s folk music, dear readers, and Brodie deftly crafts a cinematic narrative that hits all the notes you expect it to, while simultaneously thrilling you with its ability to tug on your heartstrings.
And speaking of sunny stories with more shadows that you'd expect, Jenny Colgan's latest delightful rom-com by the sea (with scones!) is out this week. In Sunrise by the Sea, we're off to Cornwall, where the sea spray is especially salty, and even the most taciturn recluse can be cajoled out of her self-imposed exile. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, as we have come to expect from Colgan, but like Brodie, you're in the hands of an expert, so you might as well kick off your shoes and enjoy the ride.
Jenny Colgan is currently Evelyn's favorite writer, by the way. So this one comes with a Bookseller Seal of Approval!
And speaking of expert opinions, the triple threat of Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are back with My Contract Mary, the latest addition to their Lady Janies series. This one is about Mary (who is quite contrary, apparently). Mary lives in France, during the Renaissance, and her big secret is that she is the Queen of Scotland. No, wait. Everyone at court knows that. Her secret is that she is a mouse! That's it. Contrary Mary is a shapeshifter, and if anyone at court finds out, heads will roll. Naturally, someone dies, fingers get pointed, and Mary is going to have to be exceptionally clever to escape the headsman's axe.
And speaking of strange rituals at court, Kerstin Hall's new novel Star Eater is a bloody exploration of power and control. Set in a fantastic world where the Sisterhood of Aytrium hold all the power (and all the secrets), a young member of the order comes to realize that her predetermined purpose is to die horribly and early. Naturally, Elfreda isn't keen on this plan, and so she agrees to become a spy in the house of Aytrium. Naturally, secrets are revealed, ritualist cannibalism happens, and good Lord, we don't know what happens after that. Someone should find out and report back.
Here's something different. Fabian Nicieza is a name that graphic novel readers probably know, but this is his first foray into writing all the words. Suburban Dicks is a crime novel, and while it's not exactly a comedy, it's got a fair share of snark, razor wit, and deadpan humor. A pregnant mother who gave up on a career with the FBI several kids ago and a disgraced investigative reporter team up to solve a terribly un-exciting murder at a gas station no one cares about. Sure, they're doing it because they're damaged characters who desperately want to accomplish something that the rest of world might notice. Lucky for them, this murder leads to another, which leads to another and another, and suddenly, they've solving a ripe-for-the-headlines case.
And speaking of clever sleuths, Katherine Addison returns to her beloved world of The Goblin Emperor with The Witness for the Dead. Sent far away from court, Thara Celehar (the titular Witness) is quietly living in Amalo, but his unique abilities get him drawn into a murder investigation. Observational skills and common decency always get you into trouble, and Celehar must dodge all manner of treachery and injustice as he attempts to solve the case of the dead elven opera singer. It's a fantasy cozy mystery! All the things blended together into a delightful and unexpected concoction.
Meanwhile, with Skye Falling, Mia McKenzie reskins the Fabulously Gay Uncle and Obnoxious Old Man Called Ove narratives with a prickly middle-aged lesbian who is "doing just fine, thank you very much." Except she's not, especially when a precocious twelve-year old shows up and says "Mama!" Since prickly narrator Skye isn't entirely a monster, she tries to deal with this unexpected addition to her life while navigating a hometown landscape that has been overrun with hipster cafes and overpriced condos. What's a life-long rebel to do when responsibility shows up and acts all adorable? Thankfully, the life lessons here are richly drawn and delightfully hilarious.
And finally, here is Carrie Vaugh's Questland, which is a love letter to the fantasy community. Vaughn performs a tricky game of Westworld meets Ready Player One meets Your Basement Dungeons & Dragons Game for Questland, which takes as its starting point old Arthur C. Clarke's infamous pronouncement about magic and science (if one is sufficient advanced, you can't tell it from the other). What happens when an eccentric billionaire finances an island where this aphorism is tested? And what happens when a team decides they're going to keep it for themselves? Oooh. It's a Storm the Castle mission with snark and stuff blowing up. Sign us up!
And that, dear readers, is enough of a list to keep you indoors for a few days. Watch out for heat domes, supercells, and rogue waves. They will all have deleterious effects on the paper of your books, and that's not okay.