GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan

    The Warlow Experiment by Alix NathanTerrific. Grade A-plus historical fiction. Customers who are champing at the bit for Mantel's next can be quietened for a bit with The Warlow Experiment. I love this mix of research and imagining, and I toast Nathan for taking that long-ago advertisement and fanning it out for us so well.

    The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan ($26.95*, Doubleday), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe

    The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine HoweWitchcraft meets academia in this mystical novel from Katherine Howe. When Connie Goodwin's life takes an unexpected turn, so does her research into witchcraft in colonial America. As she uncovers secret after secret, Connie learns that her past may impact her future much more than expected. Highly recommended for fans of the All Souls trilogy and anything that mixes magic, research and history!

    The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe ($28.00*, Henry Holt and Co.), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

    Vintage 1954 by Antoine LaurainFor those who have not yet caught on to the magic that is Antoine Laurain, Vintage 1954 is a lovely introduction. His trademark uniqueness is on full display here as he weaves a tale of wine, time-travel, UFOs, and international cooperation that becomes remarkably believable the more you read. Through many celebrity cameos and subtle descriptive flourishes, the world of Paris in 1954 leaps off the page. Grab a good glass of wine and a comfy chair and immerse yourself in the quirky creativity that is Antoine Laurain.

    Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain ($14.95*, Gallic Books), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Travelers by Regina Porter

    The Travelers by Regina PorterWatching the events and lives of one family intertwined come together so beautifully in one novel is an absolute treat, and Regina Porter does not disappoint. The Travelers builds and weaves the story of family, strife, love, and frustration and encapsulates what it means to become and to remain a family. This story is absolutely gorgeous as it moves through time and experience and leaves its reader feeling like a part of the family rather than just an observer.

    The Travelers by Regina Porter ($27.00*, Hogarth), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow

    In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles WinslowKnot is a strong and independent woman in a rural town in North Carolina. She likes her liquor and she will always speak her mind and regrets none of it. She is one of many members of the community of West Mills that we get to know over the course of 40 years in De'Shawn Charles Winslow's beautiful and feisty book about the love of family, friends and neighbors. Though not always perfect and with a fair share of secrets, they always try to do what they believe is best for the ones they love.

    In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow ($26.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

    A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    City of Girls by Elizabeth GilbertI remained unsure where Elizabeth Gilbert was taking me throughout the nearly 500 pages of City of Girls, but now that I've finished the final chapter, I'm glad I trusted her expert hand. I adored seeing the world through Vivian's eyes; her coming-of-age is, perhaps more than anything else, a love story, a tribute to the theatre and to New York City. Every one of Gilbert's characters is flawed and complicated (sometimes even downright awful), but somehow she's made every one of them likable and determined to grow, making for a compelling story I couldn't put down.

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert ($28.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA.

  • Give by Erica C. Witsell

    Give, a Novel by Erica C. WitsellI realize that this book is, in large part, about sisterhood. Unfortunately, I don't have a sister or a similar relationship to measure against. I loved Emma and Jessie anyway, and found them credible characters in their own right. Emma's struggle to find a nourishing relationship is deeply touching. The dynamics between the two of them and between Laurel and Jessie are written with honesty and affection.

    But what grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go was Witsell's descriptions of parenting and motherhood. It's unflinching in a way that I haven't read before without someone being written as a monster. Laurel isn't a monster; She's just not cut out for motherhood. She's a flawed person whose flaws are particularly incompatible with mothering. God, I sympathized with her. Early motherhood was frequently intolerable for me as well, and I found a sort of weird validation from reading someone else who wasn't very good at it. However, I also loved Sarah's character. She wasn't any more perfect than Laurel was imperfect.

    I especially applaud Witsell's commitment to Laurel's integrity. Laurel never "rises above" or adopts the proper level of selflessness. It would have been pretty but dishonest to do otherwise. Even when her intentions are good, as with baby Liza, she manages to get it all wrong.

    Everything about this book feels real, genuine, and honest. It it were written as memoir, I would believe it, but I think it somehow points to even larger truths by being written as fiction.

    Give by Erica C. Witsell ($19.95*, BQB Publishing), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

  • Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

    Prairie Fever by Michael ParkerMichael Parker eloquently captures the desolate beauty of the Oklahoma prairie in prose that is somehow both searing and lyrical as he tells the story of two teenage sisters in the early 1900's. The pair are deeply close, although they couldn't be more different. Lorena is sensible, Elise is always lost in flights of fancy. When a series of events leads them to realize they have feelings for the same man, their young teacher, the two are driven apart by years and hundreds of miles. This not a sad story. It is a tale of abiding love infused with charm, wit, and bitingly humorous dialogue. I was enchanted, and to put it simply, I loved how this book made me feel.

    Prairie Fever by Michael Parker ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

    Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. JacksonSteph, Jarrell, and Quadir are best friends, going to high school in Brooklyn, when Steph is murdered in the street. Jarrell and Quadir, along with Jasmine, Steph's sister, are left wondering who killed Steph and why. When they discover boxes upon boxes of CDs and tapes of Steph's rap songs, they decide that they are too good to remain unheard. They also figure they can raise money and hire a detective to find out what happened to Steph since the police don't seem to care to find out.

    This story takes place in the late 90s and is told through the point of view of Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell with a few flashbacks from Steph. Fans of urban fiction, 90s rap, and mystery alike will all enjoy this one.

    Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson ($17.99*, Katherine Tegen Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.

  • The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters

    The Raven's Tale by Cat WintersLike Poe's stories, The Raven's Tale is dripping in mood and the macabre. We first meet a 17-year-old Poe as he sits in the Allan pew at Monumental Church, a church that sits on remains of 72 Richmonders who perished in a theater fire in 1811. It's there that Poe spies his muse beginning to form out of the shadows of his imagination, and she's no longer satisfied with mere crumbs of his attention. But the young poet is a week away from leaving for college and his guardian, John Allan is threatening to withdraw financial support if Poe doesn't silence his morbid muse. Absolutely delightful, morbid, and creepy!

    The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters ($17.99*, Amulet Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Line Tender by Kate Allen

    The Line Tender by Kate AllenWell, this was a completely captivating, emotional roller coaster that left this reader with a greater appreciation of sharks by the end. The Line Tender is a coming-of-age, middle grade novel set on the coast of Massachusetts during the 1990's.

    Twelve year-old Lucy has always depended on her best friend, Fred, for emotional support and understanding since the death of her marine biologist mom five years ago. However, their feelings are beginning to shift a bit. They both have insatiable curiosity and are working on a local field guide for an extra credit project when a dead, but massive white shark is brought to shore by a local fisherman. This sets the course for an unexpected chain of events that will rock their small community.

    This tale is haunting and unforgettable. I loved the pencil sketches throughout.

    The Line Tender by Kate Allen ($17.99*, Dutton Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler

    The Magnetic Girl by Jessica HandlerA grand, dark, mysterious historical novel filled with dark power and ambivalence, The Magnetic Girl captures a time and place, not only in the life of a teenage girl but in our country as well. Filled with the shifting longings of adolescence against a vaudeville backdrop, Handler's novel explores the dangerous journey from childhood to adulthood when our budding powers both enthrall and terrify us.

    The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler ($27.00*, Hub City Press), recommended by Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

     A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • The Editor by Steven Rowley

    The Editor by Steven Rowley

    The Editor opens with a nervous meeting between debut novelist James Smale and a potential editor who turns out to be none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

    Rowley perfectly captures the charm and grace of this American icon while portraying her in the role of devoted editor completely invested in helping her author find his true story. In turn, Smale’s journey to confront his past and repair his relationship with his mother resonates on a personal level with Onassis’s most personal role as a mother.

    This is the first book in a very long time that kept me reading far past my bedtime! Rowley perfectly aligns these two characters’ stories, creating a heartwarming story perfect for readers who appreciate a powerful family story with a touch of history and intrigue.

    The Editor by Steven Rowley ($27.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    American Princess tells the story of Alice Roosevelt, the headstrong daughter of the indomitable Teddy Roosevelt.  This was a fast-paced piece of history that was fun to read!

    American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Bookmarks, Bookmarks, NC.

  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins

    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor JenkinsHoly smokes, Daisy Jones! This is a 24-hour freight train of a book that I couldn't put down. It's a fictionalized documentary of the rise and fall of the band Daisy Jones and The Six. Docudrama binge reading at its best! Having the story laid out simultaneously by several narrators creates a building tension that continues to grow throughout. I loved it and cannot wait to get this on the shelves!  

    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins ($27.00*, Ballantine Books), recommended by The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL.

  • We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

    We Must Be Brave by Frances LiardetWritten in gorgeous prose, We Must Be Brave is going to be a force this publishing season and for years to come. Many books have been written about the woes of World War II. None have tackled the love between a woman and a child quite like this one. I am always seeking just one more unique novel depicting the angst of war. This is this year's big one!

    We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet ($27.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • The Huntress by Kate Quinn

    The Huntress by Kate QuinnFrom the author of The Alice Network comes a haunting post war story of a battle haunted journalist turned Nazi hunter, a female Red Army bomber pilot in exile and young American girl trying to figure out her path in life. The story shifts between past and present as they pursue Nazi killer that haunts them both. The reader will wonder who is the huntress and who the hunted. It is a story of love and loss, trust and betrayal, past and present, and revenge and redemption. Great for lovers of historical fiction, mystery and detective novels.

    The Huntress by Kate Quinn ($16.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

    The Secret of Clouds by Alyson RichmanWhat an impact a loving and caring teacher can make on the life of a child. This is definitely a love letter to all the amazing teachers who go above and beyond each and every day to teacher our precious children.  Teachers have that special something that digs deep to bring out the best in each child. Alyson Richman does it again. A sure winner.

    The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • The Heavens by Sandra Newman

    The Heavens by Sandra NewmanBen and Kate meet at a party in a progressive NYC in the year 2000. They begin to fall in love but Kate has had these dreams since childhood that take her back to Elizabethan England where her actions change the reality she wakes up in each time. As her current world gets worse and her friends get more skeptical of her sanity, Kate tries to figure out what paths to choose in her dreams to save the future. A very intimate, emotional and at some moments downright heartbreaking look at perception, morality, and humanity, this book shook me and will be one of the best of 2019. 

    The Heavens by Sandra Newman ($26.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • American Pop by Snowden Wright

    American Pop by Snowden WrightSnowden Wright has the Mississippi vernacular perfected. I've never read a book that so clearly captures the bizarre and beauty of my home state so clearly. The tale of the Forster family's rise and fall is a clever mix of historical facts and fiction. A book about a family dynasty, American Pop also explores the sense of entitlement and ridiculous propriety that was born and bred into white southerners.

    American Pop by Snowden Wright ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2019 Okra Pick

  • The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome Charyn

    The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome CharynAn fun, interesting, and unexpected read! Teddy Roosevelt jumps to life in this historical tale.

    The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome Charyn ($25.95*, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • The Gown by Jennifer Robson

    The Gown by Jennifer RobsonIn 1947, British Princess Elizabeth stood before her groom and the world a vision in an exquisitely embroidered wedding gown from the design house of Norman Hartnell. Seven decades later, a young Canadian journalist inherits a handful of intricate embroidery samples from her beloved Nan which sets her off in search of her grandmother's mysterious past.

    Author Jennifer Robson deftly leads the reader back and forth through time in the desolation of post-war London through the eyes of a working girl and a French Holocaust survivor.

    There were many hands involved in the creation of the royal wedding gown. Those hands belonged to people with lives and stories to tell--Robson honors these in her unforgettable novel, The Gown.

    The Gown by Jennifer Robson ($16.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

    The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia QuinnPoppy Bridgerton is just finishing her second season and she has successfully avoided marriage. While she's relaxing by the sea at her friend's estate, her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers a hidden pirate's cave, full of booty. Before she can get away, the pirates find her and she's smuggled on board where she meets their dashing captain, Andrew James. Nautical romance ahoy!

    Julia Quinn hasn't written a bad book--all are excellent and this one is no exception.

    The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn ($26.99*, Avon Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.

  • Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard

    Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias EnardAn elegantly written piece of historical fiction that depicts Michelangelo as a conflicted, unsure genius. At times mysterious and poetic, Énard has a knack for storytelling, turning this short character study into a piece of political intrigue.

    Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard ($19.95*, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Unclay by T.F. Powys

    Unclay by T.F. PowysSay Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell, and Lolita had a ménage à trois in a quaint English village inhabited by the likes of Jack the Ripper and Little Dorrit. Wonderful, readable, oddly moving and also...odd. First published in 1931--or wait, maybe that was 1731? Or maybe 2431? One of them. 

    Unclay by T.F. Powys ($16.95*, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfiled

    Once Upon a River by Diane SetterfiledI loved The Thirteenth Tale, so I was excited to see that Diane Setterfield has a new novel for us. I enjoyed the atmospheric writing, the depth and range of the characters, and the beautiful setting. The river is a major player in the story, and Setterfield describes it with great affection and respect. This book isn't exactly fantasy but it isn't exactly straight realism, either. The mixture worked for me. I also liked the pacing, much like a river...sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful, always moving forward. This will be a great book for lovers of historical fiction willing to try something different.

    Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfiled ($28.00*, Atria/Emily Bestler Books), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

  • Melmoth by Sarah Perry

    Melmoth by Sarah PerryWith its echoes of Mary Shelley and menacing creature in Frankenstein, Melmoth reads deliciously like an 18th-century Gothic novel. Mysterious pages describe a legendary shrouded figure--Melmoth the Wanderer--who watches those who have sins and secrets to hide.

    Propulsive, eerie, heartrending, and hopeful, Sarah Perry's worthy successor to The Essex Serpent bring a chill of recognition to each of us who has acted badly and peered over our shoulder to see if someone was watching.

    Melmoth by Sarah Perry ($27.99*, Custom House), recommended by Malaprop's Books and Cafe, Asheville, NC.

     

  • Grenade by Alan Gratz

    Grenade by Alan GratzThe harsh reality of war is presented here with an abundance of raw details. Told in contrasting view points this book opens up the horrors of both sides of a war and the real casualties witnessed on the front. Ray left home against his father's wishes to join in the fight. He was sent to fight the Japanese army. He was told how horrible the opposition was and needed not only to survive but protect his fellow Marines.

    Hideki is Ray's enemy living with his family on Okinawa. He is thrown into the fray after being taken out of school. Americans are his enemy and he must protect his family and country from these evil people. When Ray's and Hideki's worlds collide, their lives change forever.

    Fans of Alan Gratz will be gratzified to know his next book is historical fiction at its finest.

    Grenade by Alan Gratz ($17.99*, Scholastic Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, Wake Forest.

  • The Fallen Architect by Charles Belfoure

    TITLEBelfoure has woven another wonderful tale involving an architect, Douglas Layton. And England during the early 20th century is always a fascinating landscape. Douglas is very good at his profession but a horrible accident involving the collapse of a theater that he designed destroys his career and puts him in jail. Upon release he struggles to clear his name. Belfloure introduces a varied cast of characters that are sure to delight. I was captivated by all of the unique personalities that were found in the vaudeville theater of the time and totally supported the efforts of Douglas as he gets involved in solving the mystery of the theater collapse. I look forward to the next architectural tale by this marvelous storyteller. Great story!

    The Fallen Architect by Charles Belfoure ($25.99*, Sourcebooks Landmark), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

    The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi LeeFelicity wants to be a doctor. Unfortunately it's the 1700s and that kind of thing is JUST not done. Living in Scotland, working at a bakery, she can't get anyone to hear her petition to study. She travels to London to see if she can make any headway there and is met with similar disappointment. However, the opportunity to present herself to a doctor that she idolizes presents itself and she travels to Germany to do just that. What happens next is an adventure that Felicity didn't know she was looking for.

    The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee ($18.99*, Katherine Tegen Books / Harpercollins Children’s Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • November Road by Lou Berney

    November Road by Lou Berney Don't make the mistake of considering this a work of historical fiction (it is, set against and intertwined with the assassination of JFK). Don't consider it a suspense novel (it is, with Frank Guidry on the run for his life from a ruthless assassin and an organized crime boss with contacts everywhere, who are pursuing Frank for what he might know or have done in relation to the killing of JFK), and by no means consider it a love story (although, implausibly it becomes one when Frank falls for a young woman traveling with her two small children, and on the run for reasons of her own). This book is most simply a story, and one that is exceptionally well told. Lou Berney has crafted a very compelling tale with very human and relatable characters, each with their own flaws, secrets, dreams and desires. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, but mostly it's the story that grabs hold of you and keeps you turning the pages to the very end. This book was a joy to read.

    November Road by Lou Berney ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Fall 2018 Okra Pick

  • White Dancing Elephants by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

    White Dancing Elephants by Chaya BhuvaneswarBhuvaneswar's short stories beautifully share the lives of sixteen different women. White Dancing Elephants explores issues of immigration, religion, and feminism, but what it does best it let you peer inside each woman's soul. This is a brilliant debut. 

    White Dancing Elephants by Chaya Bhuvaneswar (16.95*, Dzanc Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz ZafónZafón is one of my favorite authors of all times. I found his first book, Shadow of the Wind, years ago at an airport and was hooked forever. Although the series, Cemetery of Forgotten Books, is connected by its wonderful characters, each book can be read alone. I have been entranced by the adventures of Daniel Sempere and Fermin and many others that I came to care about. The horrors of the Spanish Civil War loom large over Daniel’s family and those he loves. And Alicia Gris, what a story she has to tell.

    In the midst of this violent time in Spanish history the love that the characters have for each other shines bright. And through it all Zafon shares magnificent tales about books, booksellers and authors and life. He also has such imagination and is a masterful weaver of tales you can’t imagine. This is a must read! Love it, love it!!

    The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón ($37.50*, Harper), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes GowarThis book was a pure delight from beginning to end. High class escorts, nouveau riche merchants, madams, backstabbings, broken hearts, mended hearts, parties, an angry mob, pining, memaids. What more could you ask from a historical novel taking place in the late 18th century? The characters are so well-rounded I found myself cringing for them in their embarassment and cheering for them in their triumph. The writing is so atmospheric it feels absolutely authentic. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book as much I enjoyed reading this one. The only way to describe this book is as an absolute romp. 

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar ($28.99*, Harper), recommended by Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN.

  • The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

    The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie HannahWhen you love a classic series, it is hard sometimes to read a contemporary writer who, like Sophie Hannah, is continuing the story in present day. However, I have loved each one she has done and this is my favorite yet. Honestly, while reading this book, I forgot that Agatha Christie didn't write it. The story is exactly what you would expect from Christie and Hannah handles the voice and character of Poirot expertly. A well done addition to the canon.

    The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah ($27.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

    Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-RansomeHistorical fiction at its finest. Langston longs for his beloved mother and his home in Alabama. But his mother has passed away and his father has moved him to Chicago. Langston struggles both being the new boy in class and with his father who is suffering silently. His discovery of the local library and the books of poetry by a man who shares his name opens a world of discovery that forges new friendships, reveals secrets, and helps his family heal.  

    Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome ($16.99*, Holiday House), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

    The Masterpiece by Fiona DavisLoved this story! Lost myself in two worlds that Davis created.  I became very attached to the characters and hated for the story to end. Along the way Davis teaches us about a lost art school in Grand Central Terminal in New York,and early artists, especially, Clara Darden, a prominent illustrator during the Great Depression.  A fascinating look at history and the struggle to save Grand Central as a national historic monument. And there’s a little mystery which is compelling. Read this in one sitting!

    The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis ($26.00*, Dutton Books), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • The Distance Home by Paula Saunders

    The Distance Home by Paula SaundersThe Distance Home is a novel of oppositions. Set in a South Dakota landscape at once stark and beautiful, Paula Saunders introduces a family full of meanness and cruelty, but also crushing, miraculous love. These characters, this story, these sentences transcend the typical family drama, as Saunders shows us a world where hate and love are made of the same stuff, and where home and family are the best and worst things that will ever happen to you. In this novel, it is possible to be dragged down by the world, but also to be lifted up by it. 

    The Distance Home by Paula Saunders ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce

    Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. PearceA poignant and charming WWII story that occurs in England during the Blitz. Emma is trying to serve during wartime but really yearns to be a war journalist! But she has no experience! She does find a job typing for Mrs. Bird who responds to letters from newspaper customers. Mrs.  Bird is particular though and has strict guidelines about what kind of letter she will answer. And of course that causes a dilemma for Emma. Pearce has woven a lovely tale of friendship, love, loss and  all with a sense of humor and grit that only the Brits can have. I thoroughly enjoyed this heart warming journey with Emma and her friends. A great read!

    Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce ($26.00*, Scribner Book Company), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood

    She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann HoodA great story about the beginnings of pop culture obsession pre-social media. Full of nostalgia and innocence. Every character is faced with the same dilemma of being at the point in their lives where they are trying to figure out where they fit in the society around them. I also loved that the end was a happy one. Great read. 

    She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood ($16.99*, Penguin Workshop), recommended by Books on Broad, Camden, SC.

  • Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith Jaeger

    Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith JaegerFor Violet Harcourt, 1940's Santa Cruz was no place of dreams.  As long as the recently crowned Miss California lived in the beautiful beach town, she would live in fear. An impulsive journey to Hollywood and a screen test could save her life or it end it.

    In 2007, Santa Cruz is the only place for Marisol Cruz. Her family's home for over 60 years, she grew up hearing the stories of her grandfather's famous boardwalk performances and loving the picturesque beach-side gazebo where her grandparents and others danced the nights away back in the day.

    While selling raffle tickets for the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, Marisol runs across a picture and article about the tragic death of Violet so many years before. The sadness she sees in Violet's eyes and the accompanying story leads her to explore what may have led to the untimely death of the young woman.  What Marisol finds will release a lifelong secret held by her adored grandfather, and change the lives of the people closest to her.

    Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith Jaeger ($15.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

    The Great Believers by Rebecca MakkaiThe Great Believers is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book. 

    The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai ($27.00*, Viking), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

    A Spring 2018 Read This! Next pick

  • Varina by Charles Frazier

    Varina by Charles FrazierIf you think there is nothing new or even useful left to be said about the Civil War, you need to read Varina. Frazier uses the real First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis, to tell the story of the war and its sad denouement. The broad outlines of the story are true: Mississippi-born Varina Howell married much-older Jefferson Davis after having been educated in Philadelphia. She never thought the South could win and secretly considered the war folly from the outset. In a scandalous show of indifference, she went home before the end of Davis’ inauguration ceremony. Once installed as the First Lady in what was known as the Grey House in Richmond, Varina rose to the occasion, helping with the war effort in various ways. As Richmond fell, she and her children fled, but were captured, along with Jefferson Davis. She spent time with the children in Savannah under house arrest, then at Fort Monroe in Maryland with her husband. She lived alone abroad, then with her husband near Biloxi, Mississippi until his death, then moved to New York City and wrote a regular column for the New York Times.

    Varina, as Frazier conceives her, is smart and bold, often using morphine to soften her edges. She was never quite what the South wanted her to be, nor was she keen to become so. After she loses her best friend, Mary Chestnut, she muses that you don’t get to choose who you outlive. And, indeed, she outlived all but one of her seven children, as well as her husband and, of course, the Confederacy itself. It is true that she took in a mulatto child during her time in Richmond, raising him alongside her own children for a time. “Jimmie” was one of the children who fled with her after the fall of Richmond. History doesn’t record what happened to him after he was separated from Varina in her capture and taken North. In Frazier’s re-telling, however, the adult Jimmie reads an account of Varina and her mulatto ward in a (very real) book called “First Days Among the Contrabands,” published in 1893. Based on hazy memories, he believes himself to be the Jimmie in the book. He visits Varina at a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY, where they are reunited. Their series of meetings grounds the book, which is told in flashback.

    If you enjoyed Cold Mountain, you must read Varina. Frazier’s virtuoso prose is infused with melancholy, but his Varina is surprisingly relatable, recognizable to anyone who’s felt powerless over a situation. The real Varina is said to have admitted that the South deserved to lose, and of course she was right. But this book asks us to understand, if not to forgive, and to move on. Faulkner famously wrote that “the past is never dead.” Varina attempts to put a stake through the heart of the Lost Cause.

    Varina by Charles Frazier ($27.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

    Disoriental by Negar DjavadiI devoured this book. Kimia's family history, and consequently the history of Iran, is given in tantalizing bits and pieces. It was fascinating, informative, and exceptionally well-written. I highly, highly recommend it!

    Disoriental by Négar Djavadi ($18.00*, Europa Editions), recommended by Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN.

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

    Dread Nation by Justina IrelandThe War Between the Sates is put on hold as the dead begin to rise. Jane has been taken from the relative safety of her mother’s plantation home to start training as an Attendant at Miss Prescott’s School of Combat in Baltimore. The Native American and Negro Re-education Act holds that the minority youth be trained in weaponry and manners to serve as the protectors of the upper class white families across the eastern states. Jane is a smart, sassy and strong heroine that you will continue to root for as she faces true horrors of humanity far worse than the walking dead shamblers. This is an important coming of age story and conversation about slavery and the years that followed.

    Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ($17.99*, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Country Dark by Chris Offutt

    Country Dark by Chris OffuttCountry Dark is the story of Tucker and what happens to his life after he returns home from the Korean War to rural Kentucky. Wretchedly poor with limited resources, Tucker and his family suffer the consequences of a few poor decisions over the course of three decades. This novel marries a love story, backwoods crime gangs, and children born broken with the everyday struggles of those born into poverty.

    Country Dark by Chris Offutt ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli

    The Perfume Burned His Eyes Michael ImperioliYes. It's That Guy From The Sopranos.

    If that's what makes you pick it up, fine. Just do it.

    Matthew, a 16-year-old boy living in Queens loses both his father and his grandfather. His mother uproots the now family of two to Manhattan. He starts an unlikely friendship with two tenants in his building: Lou Reed and his trans girlfriend Rachel. Lou becomes a quasi-shamanic father figure to the boy as he navigates his lonely path to becoming a man.

    Heartbreaking. Pure.

    If you walk away from having read this book without feeling the deepest empathy for teenagers and your own teenage self, you're just a stone, man. You can't be reached.

    The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli ( $25.95*, Akashic Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Tangerine by Catherine Managan

    Tangerine by Christine ManaganIn the beginning I wasn't sure what Tangerine was trying to be--a Gothic thriller like Rebecca? a symphony of unreliable narrator voices, like in the TV drama The Affair? a love triangle?

    As I read on, I decided that it reminded me of nothing more than The Talented Mr. Ripley. Maybe in its setting: a hot, tropical place like Tangier, where expat Americans and Brits love to feel free of all constraints and even laws. In its voice, too, though instead of being narrated entirely by Ripley, Tangerine takes turns between the voices of its two heroines. Both are flawed and both are entirely relatable, up to a point. Take nothing for granted in this debut that is much more than the sum of its influences.

    Tangerine by Christine Managan ($26.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

    The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerI never could have anticipated this book, and now I can't imagine a world without it, especially for this moment in American history. The Female Persuasion follows the ambitious but shy Greer Kadetsky, her boyfriend, her best friend, and the feminist icon who launches her into the world. Through these vivid, complex, and lovable characters, Wolitzer explores both the principle and reality of feminism as well as the desire to become our fullest selves and the twists and turns that journey can take.

    My heart raced reading this book, and I never wanted it to end. The Female Persuasion is powerful, generous, smart, and deeply kind; I can’t wait for the world to meet it.

    The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer ($28.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

    The Italian Party by Christina LynchThis funny, historical, spy novel takes place in 1950's Italian countryside and gives you a front row seat to what Italy was like after WWII. Thoroughly enjoyable!

    The Italian Party by Christina Lynch ($25.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon So many questions have always surrounded Tsarina Anastasia. I think we all secretly wanted this young princess to be alive. This novel moves you and makes you block out the noise around as you step back in time and witness the young girl and the penniless older woman who claimed to be the only survivor of the Romanovs. Such passion about the subject comes through and makes you wonder and believe.

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon ($26.95*, Doubleday Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor BrownTo read the work of Taylor Brown is to be given the capacity to enter any world his writing fearlessly creates. He is a wellspring of lyrical beauty.

    Gods of Howl Mountain carried me deep into the mountains of NC, post-Korean War, where moonshine ran like it sprang from the earth, where the embryonic seeds for NASCAR were being sown by moonshine runners in souped up cars, and where the people took care of their own, whether by home remedies gifted from the mountains or by brutality and revenge.

    The characters are unforgettable and remained with me long after closing the book. They are toughened by life, hopeful, and endearing—survivors all. Brown was able to brilliantly infuse humor and light into this gritty tale. Rory Docherty has returned from the war, leaving a leg in exchange for the horrors he can’t forget. His beautiful mother is a resident at Dorothea Dix Hospital, muted by a heinous act of violence, leaving Rory to be raised the inimitable Granny May. This diminutive force is his maternal grandmother; former prostitute turned healer, drawing from the folk knowledge that the mountains take care of their own. Rory’s livelihood options are limited, so he turns to running moonshine, chased by revenuers, lawmen, competing runners, and his own demons. There are questions from the past to be answered, grudges to bear, and redemption to be found.

    I lifted my head from this extraordinary novel in the wee hours of the morning, stunned by the time passed and grateful for the opportunity to read such a literary gift. A vision from the novel that haunts me is that of a lone surviving chestnut tree in front of Granny May’s cabin, branches filled with empty bottles to capture evil spirits and protect the home. The mountains are filled with spirits, good and evil. Gods of Howl Mountain captures those spirits like that lone bottle tree within its pages.

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan HollinghurstThe Sparsholt Affair is a novel about time and memory. As you read each section, you see how time has changed England and these characters. Hollinghurst is so good at moments, I found myself slowing down so I wouldn't miss anything. Somehow, he's attuned to the frequencies of human interaction invisible to most writers. Such a pleasure to read.

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst ($28.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto UrreaThis book is beautiful in its writing, voice, and sadness. His books continue to get better with each new one. I am excited to hand this over to our customers who are already fans of his and I'm looking forward to creating new fans of Urrea through this book. 

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea ($27.00*, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Promise by Minrose Gwin

    Promise by Minrose GwinWhen a tornado of epic proportions ruins the town of Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, the death toll was steep. But when we discover that the deaths in the black community were NEVER counted, well, that takes this novel based on a true story, totally to a much higher level. This book is bound to be a book club favorite. It's got everything a club needs for discussion. And, the fact that this actually happened, is incredibly noteworthy as well as tragic. With characters that jump and leap from the page, PROMISE promises to keep you reading far into the night. I loved this story.

    I could not put this book down. I felt like I was trapped in the tornado, wandering through the devastated streets and blown apart buildings, feeling the chaos and brokenness. In the midst of it all, I could also feel the strength and determination of in the midst of Dovey and Jo, and experience their humanity, honesty, obstinance and kindness. With all the fires, hurricanes and floods we’ve had around the country recently, along with racial tensions, this story, though set in 1936, speaks loudly to us today.

    Promise by Minrose Gwin ($25.99, William Morrow), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

    The Great Alone by Kristin HannahIn The Great Alone, Kristen Hannah captures both the breathtaking beauty and brutal harshness of Alaska. The Allbright family escapes to the state to hopefully banish inner demons and get a fresh start. They are totally unprepared for the starkness, danger and isolation of their new home. Daughter Leni comes of age in this environment and comes to fall in love with the Alaskan wilderness. This book is another sure winner for Hannah!

    The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ($28.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk

    Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk Attia is the last of her warrior people after the Romans conquered her land. Now she's a slave, given to Xanthus, a champion gladiator, as a reward for his victories in the arena. Attia has vowed to fight the Romans until she gains her freedom or dies trying, but she doesn't count on Xanthus, a fellow slave, treating her with such care and gentleness. As the two form a relationship that goes beyond their shared bonds, Attia finds herself fighting for Xanthus as much as herself. This book will appeal to fans of strong, fierce female characters, and though there's no magic, fantasy fans will have much to love in the world of the ancient Romans.

    Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk ($17.99*, Tor Teen), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

    The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

    Although I'm not a big fan of Hollywood, this story about Mary Pickford and her best friend Frances Marian quickly drew me in and kept me turning the pages. 

    Benjamin knows how to flesh out her characters.  I kept wanting to know more about Mary and Frances. And even Douglas Fairbanks.  Such interesting people. I knew nothing about the events that came crashing down on these silent film stars when the movies went to "talkies." Just never gave it a thought. But how devastating. Such a long fall from grace. 

    How timely this powerful novel is with all the horrific news of the casting couch in this decade. And look how long it's been going on. 

    Written with a loving hand and a knowing mind, Benjamin has once again knocked it out of the park with The Girls in the Picture.

    The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin ($28.00*, Delacorte Press), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’NeillTwo orphans with artistic souls survive poverty in Montreal during the Great Depression. Separated as teenagers, they spiral into a dark underworld but are eventually reunited to revisit a shared childhood dream. I was enchanted by this novel from the moment I started it. O’Neill’s writing is whimsical and haunting — the most cinematic reading experience I’ve had in a long while.

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

    The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio IturbeFrom a young reader at Page 158 Books: "It is one of the best books I have read for some time. This book spoke to me in so many different ways: my emotions, my knowledge of history, my passion for books, and my heart."

    The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, Lilit Thwaites (Translator), ($19.99*, Henroy Holt & Company), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

    The Last Ballad by Wiley CashIn Wiley Cash's new novel, The Last Ballad, it is 1929 and the labor movement is trying to organize in North Carolina. Somehow Ella May finds the courage and resolve to fight to make things better for her children and the people who share her life of poverty and powerlessness. Cash captures the sounds and draws the pictures so beautifully that these people and their stories become real. It is heartbreaking to read what will push men and women to risk their lives for a common good but it is inspiring and gives us hope.

    The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

     A Fall 2017 Okra Pick

  • See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

    See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtLizzie Borden took an axe... or did she? Sarah Schmidt takes us inside the Borden household before and after the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. Schmidt's writing is so good that you can feel the pressure building in the house, taste the sweetness of the pears and sharpness of tainted mutton on the tips of tongues, imagine the smell as the hot summer days weighs heavily, suffocatingly on the inhabitants of the Borden home. Did Lizzie simply snap, did Bridget the maid hack her way to new employment, did Lizzie's uncle intervene to protect his nieces, or was it a stranger? Prepare for sharp-edged read!

    See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt ($26.00*, Atlantic Monthly Press), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

    The Gentleman by Forrest LeoSo our main character accidentally sells his wife to the Devil. Like ya do. Originally, he believed he hated his newlywed. But now that she is gone, he is bereft beyond all reckoning and assembles a band of misfits as incompetent as himself to journey to the Underworld to get her back. A refreshing romp at once familiar and strange. Readers will love the bumbling main character and his histrionics.

    Recommended for readers of Christopher Moore's historical novels and lovers of Monty Python.

    The Gentleman by Forrest Leo ($16.00*, Penguin Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

    See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtLizzie Borden took an axe... or did she? Sarah Schmidt takes us inside the Borden household before and after the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. Schmidt's writing is so good that you can feel the pressure building in the house, taste the sweetness of the pears and sharpness of tainted mutton on the tips of tongues, imagine the smell as the hot summer days weighs heavily, suffocatingly on the inhabitants of the Borden home. Did Lizzie simply snap, did Bridget the maid hack her way to new employment, did Lizzie's uncle intervene to protect his nieces, or was it a stranger? Prepare for sharp-edged read!

    See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt ($26.00*, Atlantic Monthly Press), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

    The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren WangIn The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, a town on the Underground Railroad secedes from the Union after it becomes fractured by the politics of the American Civil War. As a huge geek on the subject, I’m often skeptical of historical fiction relating to it. While Wang’s tale benefits from being based on truth, that is a moot point. His well-developed, very real characters and masterful writing are all that’s needed for an incredible debut. Though a novel of the home front, it is nonetheless a war novel focusing on how conflict brings out the best and worst in people. It is one of the best works of historical fiction on the Civil War that I’ve ever read, and perhaps even that exists.

    The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang ($26.99*, Thomas Dunne Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick | A September IndieNext Pick

  • Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks

    Over the Plain Houses by Julia FranksI loved Irenie from the moment I met her. The raw honesty of Irenie’s need to own her own body and soul nearly broke me at times. It’s a story of need and courage. Tradition and prejudices. Fear and power and the drive to overcome.

    Julia’s language and descriptions are vivid and beyond compare. At the first reading, I turned pages through from beginning to end without stopping. On the second, I began to underline the language, the poetry on every page.

    From 1939 to present we have “come along way, baby.” Yet, until every woman has the opportunity to be herself without man or government having control over her, we haven’t come far enough. Irenie’s soul demanded to be born. We would do well to listen to ourselves.

    I can’t say enough about Julia Frank’s writing style and use of prose. It’s everything fiction should be. Every word a sword, a sunburst, a cool mountain cave. And as a storyteller? She’s a moonspinner.

    Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks ($26.00*, Hub City Press), recommended by FoxTale Book Shoppe, Atlanta, GA.

     Winner of the 2017 Southern Book Prize: Fiction, Literary

  • Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

    Kiss Carlo by Adriana TrigianiReading Kiss Carlo is like enjoying a big Italian dinner with your extended family. You will come to love Nicky Castone,, a cab driver who is not sure if he is really pursuing his life's passion. Calla Borelli works in her father's theater but is worried that she will not be able to hold on to what will be his greatest legacy. Mix into this an Italian ambassador's visit to the US and a family's secrets and you have the ingredients for a novel that is hard to put down. When it is over, you will be begging the author for more about this wonderful and lovable family.

    Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani ($27.99, Harper), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

    The Essex Serpent by Sarah PerryAlready a beloved book in the UK, The Essex Serpent is as gorgeous and complex as its cover. The narrative subtly blends together a rich cast of characters and manages to feel familiar even as it travels down unexpected paths.

    The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry ($26.99, Custom House), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

    The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi LeeAn adventurous, charming, fast-paced, and utterly lovable. High drama, high romance, history, intrigue, humor - it is EVERYTHING! No 500-page book has ever been this light-hearted and easy to read. It is a gem of a book constructed with care by Mackenzi Lee - an historian and an artist. It's pure fun with fantastic, hilarious characters that seem to breathe on the page. It took only a few pages for me to be fully invested in Monty, Percy, and Felicity and the intricacies of their lives. This book made me yearn for a Grand Tour of my own--although I could maybe do without the theft, highwaymen, and terrifying pursuit of alchemical cures...

    The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee ($18.99, Katherine Tegen Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

    Fingersmith by Sarah WatersForget Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Move over Big Little Lies and The Woman in Cabin 10. Because Fingersmith has one of the best jaw dropping, plot twisting, Oh-My-God-Did-That-Just-Happen moments that I've ever read.

    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters ($17.99, Riverhead Books), recommended by Katie, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • Alleghany Front by Matthew Neill Null

    Alleghany Front by Matthew Neill Null“He is alive, but he cannot go home to face his mother and father, where they mattock small graves from a hillside, and that is a kind of death. He has a sliver of ice. Home is not for him. He lies breathing. He is rushing on.”

    This is a collection for anyone who loves a really kickass short story. Set in a West Virginia spanning the Civil War era all the way through the present day, these stories are surprising and brutal and thoroughly unsentimental. Despite being steeped in history, these stories are both poetic and experimental.

    Alleghany Front by Matthew Neill Null ($15.95, Sarabande Books), recommended by Brian, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

    There Your Heart Lies by Mary GordonAward-winning author Mary Gordon's new novel, There Your Heart Lies, follows Marian as she leaves her wealthy family behind after her brother's death and volunteers to serve during the Spanish Civil War. As things become more and more volatile under Franco's regime, Marian's relationships do also. The story takes us back and forth between her time in Spain and her present life, where she is a ninety-something widow, dying of cancer. She shares her past with her granddaughter, whose observations of Marian deepened my feelings of empathy for all that had transpired over the course of her full and eventful life.

    There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon ($26.95, Pantheon Books), recommended by Mamie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Dreamy and philosophical and bittersweet, this book makes me wish I could get my paw-hands on more memoirs written by polar bears.

    "After the death of all living creatures, all our unfulfilled wishes and unspoken words will go on drifting in the stratosphere, they will combine with one another and linger upon the earth like a fog. What will this fog look like in the eyes of the living? Will they fail to remember the dead and instead indulge in banal meteorological conversations like: 'It's foggy today, don't you think?'"

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (translator) ($16.95, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Elizabeth, Avid Bookstore, Athens, GA.

  • Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen

    Twain’s End by Lynn CullenMark Twain: funny, witty, beloved author. Also Mark Twain: moody, selfish, cruel philanderer. His secretary, Isabel Lyon, knew both sides of the man very intimately. This novel tells her story. So compelling!

    Twain's End by Lynn Cullen ($16.00, Gallery Books), recommended by Kathy, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    A young Spaniard reads a novel from a rare book library only to discover that someone is trying to destroy the author's other works. A gothic adventure for book lovers.

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón ($17, Penguin Books), recommended by Julia, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

    This book has the feel of a classic World War II story while being unlike any other book I’ve read. The Women In The Castle are widows of the resistance after their husbands’ failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Jessica Shattuck’s magnificent storytelling transports the reader to another time and place and kept me awake at night thinking about these women and their stories.

    The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck ($26.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Rae Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    George Saunders is too good for this world. His first novel spans just one night, and is one of the best explorations of love and death I have ever read. In a graveyard, the night Willie Lincoln is interred, we enter the bardo: a world between life and afterlife. As Lincoln mourns the death of his son, a chorus of voices share their own lives, deaths, griefs, and hopes. Like Lincoln, the novel is tender and humane, and delivers a message we all need to hear over and over again: to be as good as we can to each other.

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders ($28, Random House), recommended by Tyler, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Scribe by Matthew Guinn

    An assured second effort from Guinn, a former Ole Miss professor. Set in Reconstruction Atlanta, a group of prominent businessmen known as “the Ring” has staked much on the city's Cotton Expo, but a rash of brutal murders jeopardizes their plan and the populace. Canby is a disgraced lawman brought back to the city as the lead investigator but quickly realizes how much is stacked against him. The cast of characters, taut plotting, and depiction of the period make for a great read.

    The Scribe by Matthew Guinn ($5.95, W.W. Norton & Comapny), recommended by Cody, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle

    Nashvillian Lydia Peelle won the Whiting Award for her story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing. Now we have her first novel, set in Tennessee during WWI and following the story of two charming Irishmen, a rebellious heiress, and a tempestuous black mare named the Midnight Cool. Peelle is an excellent storyteller. You will be turning pages long into the night.

    The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle ($26.99, Harper), recommended by Karen, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

    A magical debut novel: part fairy tale and part historical fiction set in medieval Russia.

    The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden ($27, Del Rey Books), recommended by Amy, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

    This is great historical fiction about the first wife of Albert Einstein, Mitza Maric, who was a brilliant physicist in her own right. Her relationship with Albert and their marriage reveal the difficulty for women during the early 20th century to have a career. Her own contributions to the field of developing science helped promote Albert’s career but as his career began to rise, she was diminished and her scientific endeavors stifled. Benedict reveals Mitza’s struggles and disappointments with sensitivity and insight. A must read about a fascinating woman.

    The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict ($25.99, Sourcebooks Landmark(, recommended by Stephanie, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • The Golden Age by Joan London

    The Golden Age, by Australian novelist and bookseller Joan London, takes place in a hospital for children recovering from polio in Perth in the 1950’s. That may not sound like a particularly cheerful subject and, in many ways, it isn’t. The novel covers not only the ravages of polio, but also, because it centers around a Jewish immigrant family, it discusses the ravages of war. London’s writing, however, is transcendent. What could be a bleak, mournful tale is instead a beautiful story about finding poetry in the halls of a hospital and hope in the face of despair. This is a book I read all in one sitting because I just didn’t want to stop.

    The Golden Age by Joan London ($17, Europa Editions), recommended by Laura, Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN.

  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

    This is an amazing book, I simply loved everything about it. Any fan of historical fiction, novels about human failings and dialog that is almost poetic should read this book. The depiction of the civil war on a very personal level to one woman is stirring and hard to take in. The book is a series of letters to and from various family members and by then end of the first 30 pages you feel invested in every member involved. In some ways it is a revisit to the time when letters were the form of communication that existed and what a picture they could paint. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, the writing is wonderful.

    The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers, ($25.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), recommended by Jackie and Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Winter 2017 Okra Pick

    Meet Susan Rivers at Fiction Addiction 2/16/2017Read Susan Rivers' essay about how she discovered her novel's characters and their story.

  • Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

    Written by Nobel Prize-winning author Sigrid Undset, this trilogy is a masterpiece, with each book in the series better than the last. Set in the 14th-century and reveling in the everyday details of medieval life in Norway, the saga follows one woman through childhood, young love, married life, motherhood and into old age. The Wreath is Kristin's coming-of-age story: she recklessly enters a relationship with an older man that puts her at odds with her father and the Christian church she was raised in. Persevere past the unfamiliar names and places and you will be rewarded with a richly immersive literary experience.

    Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset ($16, Penguin), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill NC.

  • Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore

    An intimate portayal of the enigmatic and troubled character at its core, Joe Gould's Teeth is both startlingly perceptive and seductively plotted. While providing a thorough study into the life of Joe Gould and his infamous manuscript, Lepore also transports you back into the NYC literary scene of the 1930s-40s. Don't let the size fool you, this is a great quick read with graceful, fast-paced prose and some serious emotional heft.

    Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore ($24.95, Knopf), recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr

    I lived in NY's Hudson Valley when this came out, and know how well Carr (also a Hudson Valley resident) describes it all. I love historical fiction that mixes true and fictional characters. NY police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt sets up an unofficial team to investigate a serial killer, in an era in which such a concept is unknown.

    The Alienist by Caleb Carr, ($17, Random House Trade), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC. 

  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

    This book is full of thrilling mysteries and tension while shedding light on a little known tragedy from WWII.

    Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys ($18.99, Philomel Books), recommended by Erica, Lemuia Books, Jackson, MS.

  • The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

    I love that it combined historical fiction with a strong female character's search for self. It appealed to both the nerd and the dreamer in me.

    The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church ($25.95, Algonquin Books), recommended by Nancy, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Sparrow/A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell


    Rosemary, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC, places The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace, both by Maria Doria Russell, in her top ten list of books. About The Sparrow she says, "One of the best books I've ever read! Thought-provoking, fascinating, and thoroughly original, this is “science fiction” even for those who say they won't read it. Mary Doria Russell posits what can happen when very different cultures meet for the first time and, with the best of intentions, collide. Pick up the sequel, Children of God, at the same time. When you finish The Sparrow,  you'll want to leap into the next book.”

    A Thread of Grace is "epic historical fiction at its finest. Set during WWII, Italy has just surrendered. Nazi forces, Allies, Jewish refugees - all are descending on Italy, and it is hell on earth.  Told from different viewpoints, you will be constantly surprised, sometimes stunned, by what happens.  Mary visited for this book and said in researching it, so many survivors said luck was the prime factor of survival. So, with the exception of one character, she had her son flip a coin for each to determine his or her fate.”

    The Sparrow ($17, Ballantine Books) and A Thread of Grace ($17, Ballantine Books), by Mary Doria Rusell, recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

    Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, known as Vinnie, was born with dwarfism. She grew to be two feet, eight inches tall, but she never let her size stop her from living life to the fullest. Vinnie did so well in school, she became a school teacher, but deep down she craved more. Through life’s ups and downs, she finally teamed up with P. T. Barnum. The two became close friends and he introduced her to Tom Thumb, one of his other performers.

    This fictionalized novel tells the story of Vinnie, through her perspective on life. The long chapters are broken up with intermissions that show the newspaper headlines.  Melanie Benjamin is an excellent author, providing readers with an insider’s view into the personal lives of celebrities. Written as an autobiography, this book will open readers’ eyes to the world of the lady who entranced the world. There are phrases in this book that will live in readers’ hearts forever.

    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

    The Wonder kept me guessing until the very end and stayed with me for a long time after. Emma Donoghue plays to her strengths in this marvelously crafted religious thriller set in the mid-19th century Irish countryside. As always, Donoghue has done her research in telling the story of a "fasting girl" and a Nightingale Nurse. Suspenseful historical fiction driven by excellent characters.

    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (Little Brown and Company, $27.00), recommended by Leila at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, TN.

  • Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

    Perfume River is a haunting reflection on the psychic scars inflicted by the Vietnam War on three men. There are brothers Robert, who went to Vietnam, and Jimmy who went to Canada. And there's Bob, whose father was a Vietnam vet. In economically direct prose, Butler finds his way into the souls of men and the way they deal with their thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of the complex relationship of father and son. It took just one paragraph for me to understand why Butler is a Pulitzer winner.

    Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly $25), recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

    A beautifully written, complex story of war, love, intrigue and shifting loyalties in occupied Italy towards the end of WW II. This novel pairs very nicely with All The Light We Cannot See, again showing the complexities of everyday life-- not the least of which include being young and passionate about life -- while living in occupied territory.

    The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (Simon & Schuster, $27.00), recommended by Jamie at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

    At one point while reading this book, I yelled out loud: “Don’t do it!” (I can’t tell you when or why — that would spoil it.) A haunting story about a disappearance, it’s also a portrait of a family — and one of my favorite releases of this fall.

    Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin Books, $26.95), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The North Water by Ian McGuire

    Dark, brutal, and atmospheric, The North Water is the story of an ill-fated whaling ship, peopled with men of dark conscience or no conscience. Reminiscent of The Revenant in its stark story of survival and revenge against all odds, this book is chock full of men being men, doing manly things and occasionally murdering each other. A rip roaring tale of viscera and ice.

    The North Water by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt & Company, $27), recommended by Steve at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    This fascinating novel opens in 18th century Ghana, whose residents are not just victims, but sometimes willing participants, in the slave trade with the English. Two sisters from different villages never meet, but they start a family tree whose branches are chronicled into the 20th century. Gyasi presents the stories of these characters so vividly; even as the decades race by you will feel an intimate connection with each one.

    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Karen at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson

    We usually think of 'all men are created equal' when considering the start of our country. Ashes, which completes Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy set during the Revolutionary War, reminds us jarringly that this was not the case. Through the trilogy, we experience the hardships, hypocrisies, and always-cherished bonds of friendship from the perspective of Isabel, an escaped slave. Anderson always writes compelling, complicated characters for whom we care deeply. Ashes brings deep satisfaction to the trilogy. Ages 9+.

    Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy $16.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books. Raleigh, NC.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    Exuberant grandiosity! A poet's belief that the world will be changed by a literary movement! You'll find people you know so well you can practically touch them despite the fact they live in Mexico City in the 1970s. I've not had more fun reading a book in ages!

    The Savage Dectives by Roberto Bolaño (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $27), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • El Paso by Winston Groom

    The bestselling author of Forrest Gump shifts the scene to the American Southwest in this tale of border wars, Pancho Villa, family and revenge.

    El Paso by Winston Groom (Liveright Publishing Corporation, $27.95), recommended by Kathy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

    A mesmerizing story of a man's life before, during, and after WWI. Filled with beauty and horror in equal measure, it is a tale that will haunt you. Helprin's prose is poetic, and his power to leave you awestruck is fully demonstrated in this beautiful novel.

    A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (Harvest Books, $16.99), recommended by Margaret at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.