General blog posts

Joy Interviews Lynne Kelly, Author of SONG FOR A WHALE

I have known Houston author Lynne Kelly since her first middle grade novel, CHAINED debuted back in 2010, and I’m lucky to call her a friend. She is an amazing writer with books that are both funny and heartwarming and always memorable. She is also many other things, including a lover of animals and a sign-language interpreter, both of which led her to write her newest novel, SONG FOR A WHALE, which is getting both amazing buzz and phenomenal reviews. So it was my great honor and pleasure to get to interview her about SONG and the writing life and whales and more!

Song for a Whale Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524770235
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers - February 5th, 2019

Texas Book Festival Brings Books to Kids Texas-Wide

Free books for kids? Connecting authors with their readers? Sign us up! This past January, Texas Book Festival came to Houston for their fifth annual school literacy program in the area, Reading Rock Stars. 2019’s lineup featured ten of our most beloved kidlit authors: Roda Ahmed, Ana Aranda, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Ame Dyckman, Vashti Harrison, Nicolás Kanellos, James Luna, Jessica Mendoza, Chitra Soundar, and Lila Quintero Weaver.

Laura M Reviews Maria Popova's FIGURING

Maria Popova is the author, curator, and brain child behind the blog Brain Pickings: a cultural treasure trove of the thoughts, letters, and life’s work of some of history’s greatest thinkers. Most Brain Pickings articles have titles like “How to Grow Old: Bertrand Russel on What Makes a Fulfilling Life” and “Zadie Smith on Optimism and Despair.” Spanning centuries, her articles delve into a person’s writing to find the fundamental truths that make them who they are.

Figuring Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524748135
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon - February 5th, 2019

Staff Chat: Chloe Aridjis' SEA MONSTERS

SEA MONSTERS is a brilliantly playful and supple novel about the moments and mysteries that shape us. It takes place in 1980's Mexico City, wherein a young woman named Luisa decides to go on an adventure. Instead of going to school, she takes a bus with a boy she barely knows to the Pacific Coast in search of a mysterious group of traveling Ukranian circus performers. Mark, Sara, and Katie sat down to chat about the book. Visit us on February 25, when we host a SEA MONSTERS happy hour at 6pm and an event with Chloe Aridjis at 7pm!

Sea Monsters Cover Image
ISBN: 9781936787869
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - February 5th, 2019

LitHaus: A Goethe Pop-Up Houston Reading List

Brazos Bookstore is excited to partner with the Goethe-Institut's Houston pop-up for a year of cultural events in our city.

The Goethe Pop Up Houston presents LitHAUS, a monthly reading series for contemporary German literature. Each month’s selection will be accompanied by a talk or discussion around the work and its wider themes. Reading the work is encouraged but not required. Everyone is welcome to join in! Find more information about Goethe Pop Up Houston here.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear Cover Image
By Yoko Tawada, Susan Bernofsky (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811225786
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - November 8th, 2016

Memoirs of a Polar Bear stars three generations of talented writers and performers. Famous stars of the literary world, the circus, and the zoo, they happen to be polar bears who move human society. In part one, the matriarch, enjoying “the intimacy of being alone with my pen,” accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography in the Soviet Union. In part two, her daughter Tosca moves to East Germany and pioneers a thrilling circus act. And Tosca’s son—the last of their line—is Knut, born in part three and raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo.

Staff Pick Badge
Before the Feast Cover Image
By Sasa Stanisic, Anthea Bell (Translator)
ISBN: 9781941040393
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - June 14th, 2016

It’s the evening before the feast in the village of Fürstenfelde. The village is asleep. Except for the ferryman—he’s dead. And Mrs. Kranz, the night-blind painter, who wants to depict her village for the first time at night. A bell-ringer and his apprentice want to ring the bells—the only problem is that the bells have gone. A vixen is looking for eggs for her young, and Mr. Schramm is discovering more reasons to quit life than to quit smoking. Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths, and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners, and noble robbers in football jerseys bump into one another. They all want to bring something to a close, on this night before the feast.

Bricks and Mortar Cover Image
By Clemens Meyer, Katy Derbyshire (Translator)
ISBN: 9781910695197
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Fitzcarraldo Editions - May 8th, 2018

Bricks and Mortar is the story of the sex trade in a big city in the former GDR, from just before 1989 to the present day, charting the development of the industry from absolute prohibition to full legality in the twenty years following the reunification of Germany. The focus is on the rise and fall of one man from football hooligan to large-scale landlord and service- provider for prostitutes to, ultimately, a man persecuted by those he once trusted. But we also hear other voices: many different women who work in prostitution, their clients, small-time gangsters, an ex-jockey searching for his drug-addict daughter, a businessman from the West, a girl forced into child prostitution, a detective, a pirate radio presenter…

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura Cover Image
By Christine Wunnicke, Philip Boehm (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226240
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - April 30th, 2019

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura toothsomely encompasses Japan and Europe, memory and actuality, fox-possession myths and psychiatric mythmaking. The novel begins near the story’s end, in Dr. Shimamura’s retirement. A feverish invalid, he’s watched over by four women: his wife, his mother, his mother-in- law, and a nurse (originally one of his psychiatric patients). As an outstanding young Japanese medical student at the end of the nineteenth century, Dr. Shimamura is sent—to his dismay—to the provinces: he is asked to cure scores of young women of an epidemic of fox possession. He considers the assignment a joke, believing it’s all a hoax, until he sees a fox moving under the skin of a beauty. He comes to believe not just in fox possession, but also that he in fact “cured” the young woman with a kiss, by breathing in the fox demon (the root of his lifelong fever). Next he travels to Europe and works with such luminaries as Charcot, Breuer and (briefly) Freud himself.

All Russians Love Birch Trees: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590515846
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Other Press - January 7th, 2014

Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years. With cool irony, Grjasnowa’s debut novel tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures.

River Cover Image
By Esther Kinsky, Iain Galbraith (Translator)
ISBN: 9781945492174
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Transit Books - September 4th, 2018

A woman moves to a London suburb near the River Lea, without knowing quite why or for how long. Over a series of long, solitary walks she reminisces about the rivers she has encountered during her life, from the Rhine, her childhood river, to the Saint Lawrence, and a stream in Tel Aviv. Filled with poignancy and poetic observation, River is an ode to nature, edgelands, and the transience of all things human.

Sand Cover Image
By Wolfgang Herrndorf, Tim Mohr (Translated by), Michael Maar (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9781681372013
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - June 12th, 2018

North Africa, 1972. While the world is reeling from the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, a series of mysterious events is playing out in the Sahara. Four people are murdered in a hippie commune, a suitcase full of money disappears, and a pair of unenthusiastic detectives are assigned to investigate. In the midst of it all, a man with no memory tries to evade his armed pursuers. Who are they? What do they want from him? If he could just recall his own identity he might have a chance of working it out. . . .

I Called Him Necktie Cover Image
ISBN: 9781939931146
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: New Vessel Press - September 9th, 2014

Twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro has spent the last two years of his life living as a hikikomori—a shut-in who never leaves his room and has no human interaction—in his parents’ home in Tokyo. As Hiro tentatively decides to reenter the world, he spends his days observing life around him from a park bench. Gradually he makes friends with Ohara Tetsu, a middle-aged salaryman who has lost his job but can’t bring himself to tell his wife, and shows up every day in a suit and tie to pass the time on a nearby bench. As Hiro and Tetsu cautiously open up to each other, they discover in their sadness a common bond. Regrets and disappointments, as well as hopes and dreams, come to the surface until both find the strength to somehow give a new start to their lives.

Go, Went, Gone Cover Image
By Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811225946
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 26th, 2017

Go, Went, Gone tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns into compassion and an inner transformation as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes.

My Father Was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water Cover Image
By Michelle Steinbeck, Jen Calleja (Translator)
ISBN: 9781850773184
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Darf Publishers - October 18th, 2018

A child attacks Loribeth with an iron while she is sleeping. In retaliation Loribeth throws the iron onto the child from an upstairs window, packs the damaged body into a suitcase and sets off on her travels. Thus starts Steinbeck’s unusual, poetic novella about a young woman’s transition from childhood to adulthood. Loribeth and her suitcase begin an odyssey through nightmarish locations in search of her absent father. What ensues is a Freudian adult fairytale.

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine Cover Image
By Alina Bronsky, Tim Mohr (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781609450069
Availability: Backordered
Published: Europa Editions - April 26th, 2011

Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga. When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.

Playing Around in the Spaces Between: Improvising Poems

In improvising poetry, aka a live-action cento, aka fashioning a poetry jam band, I start with a makeshift canon. Like throwing a party, you put different poets, different styles at play with/in each other, and see if it takes off. Like throwing a party, I try to be well-rested and hydrated before I host. I spend time thinking of who to invite. I light a candle. I open the space up. I have party games ready in case it gets awkward. There is some noise, which starts out steady and comforting, before we trust each other enough to get real weird.

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (American Poets Continuum #134) Cover Image
By Lucille Clifton, Toni Morrison (Foreword by), Kevin Young (Editor)
ISBN: 9781934414903
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: BOA Editions - August 28th, 2012

A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)Tics Cover Image
ISBN: 9781933517599
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Wave Books - April 3rd, 2012

Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375701290
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - July 27th, 1999

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156028615
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - May 17th, 2004

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds Cover Image
ISBN: 9781849352604
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: AK Press - April 18th, 2017

Other recommended texts include Sun Ra's This Planet is Doomed: The Science Fiction Poetry of Sun Ra and CA Conrad's Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for Future Wilderness.

Elena Gonzales Melinger is a poet and writer. Her work has appeared in the Texas Review, Glass Mountain and Dangerous Constellations. She has performed most recently with Public Poetry and Poetry Fix. Her chapbook, Write What You Know, and zine, Light Skinned Tears, will be available at Brazos Bookstore on February 8th, 2019 for her event.


An MLK Day Book List

Dear Martin Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101939529
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ember - September 4th, 2018

Justyce McAllister comes face to face with racial injustice and police brutality and tries to find answers by starting a journal to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. A brief, but powerful YA novel that will resonate with teens and adults alike as Justyce ponders King's teachings.

Invisible Man (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679732761
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 14th, 1995

A quintessential depiction of the African American experience in the early/mid 20th century and a stunning literary achievement that gave voice to an entire community unseen by a racist society.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307275936
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - October 10th, 2006

In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice.

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic Cover Image
By Eugenie Tsai (Editor), Connie H. Choi, Insoo Cho (Contributions by), Elizabeth Armstrong (Contributions by), Richard Aste (Contributions by)
ISBN: 9783791354309
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Prestel - February 20th, 2015

This is a favorite of ours because of the powerful positive image Wiley's magnificent portraits bestow on his subjects--contemporary black people posed in the regal aesthetic of classical Western art.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250170972
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - March 6th, 2018

Thrilling, gorgeous, and epic to the highest degree, Adeyemi's book is a world-building masterpiece. The land of Orïsha is deftly written, inspired by West-African culture and tradition. A NY Times Best Seller for over 34 weeks, CHILDREN is a landmark achievement for black fantasy authors.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525619772
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - October 30th, 2018

Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of the best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.

We Cast a Shadow: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525509066
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - January 29th, 2019

Ruffin's WE CAST A SHADOW takes place in a near-future Southern city, in which an experimental medical procedure is gaining popularity -- and fast. Dr. Nzinga's clinic will make anyone whiter, narrow anyone's nose, and (in his words) make them more "beautiful." As Nigel, a biracial boy, gets darker and darker with each passing day, his father gets more terrified. This sharp, satirical book adds an amazing perspective to our real-life country, which is still dealing so deeply with systemic racism.

Join us on 2/2 for an event with Maurice Carlos Ruffin. We can't wait to host him!

Do You Know These Houston Kid Lit Authors?

At Brazos, we LOVE supporting authors. And it’s particular fun to promote Texas authors (especially but not limited to Houston authors!, first because they are awesome, and also because they often pop in even when they don’t have a new book out! Texas has a phenomenal and huge literary community, so there are far more amazing kidlit authors in the state than I can feature in one article. So I thought I’d introduce you to some (but certainly not all!) of my Houston favorites--in alpha order!-- and encourage you to discover them, buy their books, and spread the word.

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Mya in the Middle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062839398
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - October 16th, 2018

Crystal Allen writes award-winning, funny, heartwarming early reader and middle grade fiction featuring African American characters. Her books blow off the shelves and her school visits are prized events all over the country. Start with her debut, HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON HIM A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY (which won the coveted Sid Fleischman Award for humorous writing), and then read on from there. She’s going to be helping us kick off Spring Break Houston Reads week, where we’ll be featuring her early reader MYA TIBBS series.

The Home Builders Cover Image
By Varsha Bajaj, Simona Mulazzani (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780399166853
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - February 12th, 2019

Varsha Bajaj’s HOW MANY KISSES DO YOU WANT TONIGHT is consistently one of our bestselling board books. Her ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD is also a hit in our middle grade section. And her THIS IS OUR BABY BORN TODAY sells and sells as a perfect new baby and shower gift! Varsha’s got more on the way, including a lovely picture book titled HOMEBUILDERS, which she’ll be reading at a special story time on 3/2 at our usual 10:30.

Word Burglar Cover Image
By Chris Cander, Katherine Tramonte (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781936474967
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Bright Sky Press - October 2013

Chris Cander writes both children’s books and adult novels. Her adult novel WEIGHT OF A PIANO is out soon, getting many starred reviews and lots of acclaim and buzz, and we are hosting an event on 1/22 that you should definitely attend! And check out her picture book WORD BURGLAR next time you’re in the Treehouse!

Song for a Whale Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524770235
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers - February 5th, 2019

Lynne Kelly writes amazing middle grade novels. Her SONG FOR A WHALE is getting fabulous trade reviews and enormous buzz (Newbery, anyone?) and will be out next month! We are thrilled to be hosting her on school visits in HISD, and we’re crossing our fingers that she can join us in the coming months for Middle Grade Book Club. I’ll be doing an interview with Lynne for a future newsletter so you can learn more about her (she’s also a sign language interpreter and SONG’s main character and her grandmother are both Deaf). Pre-order SONG FOR A WHALE here.

In Another Time Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062459916
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperTeen - August 28th, 2018

Caroline Leech is a friend of the store, our favorite Scottish ex-pat, and a full part of Houston’s arts community because not only is she an author of wonderful, historical-fiction YA novels, she’s also married to Perryn Leech, the managing director of the Houston Grand Opera! Caroline has launched two of her novels right here at Brazos, both of which are set in WII-era rural Scotland, and both of which are delightful, romantic reads. Here’s a link to her most recent, IN ANOTHER TIME, can be ordered right here.

Moxie: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250104267
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Square Fish - September 18th, 2018

YA novel, MOXIE--the story of a girl who, tired of the sexism in her high school, creates a protest zine and ends up starting a feminist revolution-- is consistently one of our store bestsellers! It’s a great read for ages 12/13 and up, a great read for adults, too. Jennifer is a prolific, award-winning writer, and also an English teacher at Bellaire HS. We adore her and can’t wait for her next novel, coming this fall! You can grab a copy of MOXIE here.

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits Cover Image
By Anna Meriano, Mirelle Ortega (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062498496
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Walden Pond Press - February 5th, 2019

Anna Meriano’s LOVE SUGAR MAGIC middle grade series is a wonderful, magical delight. Think small town Texas bakery, a family of brujas, and a girl who’s still trying to figure out her place in the family--and her magic! It’s fun, funny, and heartwarming and Anna will be launching the second book right here at Brazos! Pre-order LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A SPRINKLE OF SPIRITS and join us on 2/9 for the launch party!

Those are enough to get you started discovering Houston’s many, wonderful kidlit authors! (I’m one of them, too, so feel free to ask me next time you’re in the store!) And stay tuned for other articles in which we branch out to the rest of Texas!

Mark Interviews Chris Cander, author of THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO

Mark: The Weight of a Piano takes place in several places, Russia, California and other locales. How important is place in your writing?