Read This Now
What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!
RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
Migrations is for the lovers, the wanderers, and those who are drawn to the beauty of the earth. The main character, Franny Stone, might be the focus of the novel...but the ocean, the birds in the sky, and the arctic are all equally important. Franny convinces a fishing crew to let her hitch a ride on their ship in the North Atlantic so that she can conduct an individual study on Arctic Terns and their migration. The fish are in short supply, the crew is a band of misfits, and Franny has an ulterior motive stemming from a troubled past. Little by little, all of the truths revealed are colored by the settings of Galway, Ireland and Scotland, Newfoundland/Greenland and ultimately the Antarctic continent. For me, there are two stories in this book: 1) The wanderlust that exists in many of us looking for a place (or a person) to call home. And though we may find it, the need for exploration never ceases. And 2) The conservation of the natural world and all of it occupants should not be discarded by humanity. All in all, the writing was excellent; the settings were majestic; the epilogue was magnificent.
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (List price: $26.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by .novel, Memphis, TN.
In 2008, Betsy Bonner's sister is found dead on the floor of a hotel in Tijuana. Is is suicide, or overdose? Is it even her sister? A talented musician and performer who changed her name to Atlantis Black, her sister had always lived on the edge. Bonner's love for her sister is apparent as she relays their overlapping stories and tries to unravel the mysteries of her sister's life.
The Book of Atlantis Black by Betsy Bonner (List price: $26.95, Tin house Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
I practically grew up on murder stories--from lurid true crime magazines, to the heyday of Court TV, and my ongoing love for Forensic Files. But rarely does a true crime book affect me like The Perfect Father did. Glatt offers a balanced look into the marriage of Chris and Shannan Watts, their strengths, their flaws, and their love. In our Instragram-able world, ever curated to show perfection, it's no surprise that the murder of such a vibrant pregnant mother and two beautiful little girls would capture the nation's attention. This story is heartbreaking, and Glatt shows the devastation not just of their families and friends, but on the first responders and the cops who investigated the murder. It's a tough read. Four beloved souls are forever gone, and countless lives left wrecked, but The Perfect Father is a cautionary tale for our society as it explores the coldness that lurks beneath an online persona.
The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder by John Glatt (List price: $28.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
I can't stop thinking about this fearless, genre-bending, and romantic debut novel. It's a story that begins with grief while Sia attempts to heal her heart post-trauma, but then she's assigned a school project with tall, shy Noah and some of her carefully constructed barriers start to fall away. Then the UFO sightings begin. Featuring a diverse cast, meddling ghost Abuela, aliens and so many gorgeous sentences, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything is beautiful, important, and addictive. I can't wait to read what Raquel Vasquez Gilliland writes next.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (List price: $18.99, Simon Pulse), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.
Painter Edie--black, twenty-something, and precariously employed as an editorial coordinator for a children's imprint--is in a new relationship with Eric, an archivist whose wife has recently issued guidelines for how to appropriately open their marriage. Emotionally enfeebled by a toxic and lonely childhood and anchored only by her art, Edie veers frequently between genius levels of self-awareness and a stubborn tendency to make the optimally self-destructive choice in spite of that. Luster is sad, sexy, and hypnotically-paced, better binged than nibbled. There's a stream-of-consciousness quality to Edie's narration that made me linger too long in a no-longer-warm bath, turning page after page, not to outpace cliffhanging chapters, but to absorb her complete thoughts, scrape up every last bit of observational savvy, to go back and check one more time to be sure I didn't overlook any emotional clues in Edie's self-portrait. Luster is a best-of-show caliber debut.
Luster by Raven Leilani (List price: $26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by novel., Memphis, TN.
The Orphan Collector: A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Wiseman takes the sad story of the 1918 flu epidemic in Philadelphia and gives it a face with the tale of Pia Lange, a young daughter of German immigrants who goes out to search for food after her mother dies from the flu and comes back to find her twin infant brothers gone. This is a great story that reveals both the best and the worst in people.
The Orphan Collector: A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Ellen Marie Wiseman (List price: $16.99, Kensington), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
A beautifully dark and lush novella about family and the secrets we keep. Set in rural (and slightly fantastical) Queensland, Flyaway is evocatively written, full of razor sharp edges and lonely, dusty roads. Jenning's writing has a unique lyrical rhythm to it that immediately grabbed me and her gorgeous hand-cut illustrations that accompany every chapter sealed the deal. An entrancing and unforgettable debut.
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (List price: $19.99, TOR), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
I can't get over this weird and wonderful rhyming squid story. I love it for its nod to 1950s sci-fi creatures and its multi-seasonal appeal to booksellers. Summer? It's got a beach! Halloween? Definitely! But it also works year-round. It's a little creepy but not scary and LOL funny, but also full of heart. Jonathan Fenske's rhythmic text will be a crowd-pleasing read-aloud, while his pared down palette sets the stage for seaside hijinks. The message to young creators is that art cannot be suppressed. It's sneaky and subversive! Inky and inevitable! Artists, like these surreptitious squid, make their mark on the world long after they have slipped quietly into the deep, leaving the observer to wonder what happened--and when, if they're lucky--it might happen again...
After Squidward by Jonathan E. Fenske (List price: $12.99, Penguin Workshop), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.
Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters, Ellie Snowdon (Illustrator) (List price: $14.99, Walker Books US), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
A haunted manor, star crossed lovers, a good guy to save the day – what more could you ask for in a wonderfully creepy gothic thriller set in the 1940s and in modern day? How about a really great surprise ending?
The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James (List price: $26.99, Minotaur Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Our differences should never be hidden as a means of conformity, but fully embraced for their powerful ability to make us unique individuals. It's a simple sentiment, if not a tired one, but TJ Klune has a magical power that allows him to breathe new, exhilarating life into that simplicity. With The House in the Cerulean Sea, he has skillfully crafted a contemporary fable filled with humor, wit, overwhelming delight, and some of the most colorfully drawn characters I've ever had the privilege of meeting in a book. Positively queer and heartfelt, you'll find that TJ Klune is a brilliant writer and a masterful storyteller.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (List price: $26.99, Tor Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
The newest from three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin is an epic tribute to New York City that runs on pure adrenaline with a Lovecraftian back story and a hip hop backbeat. Five New Yorkers, some born to the city and others only recently arrived, find themselves the sudden manifestations of the soul of the Big Apple and the only ones standing between the city and its total destruction at the tendrils and tentacles of an eldritch city-eating horror. A big departure from The Broken Earth trilogy, but with its powerful political commentary, The City We Became is sure to please Jemisin fans, all while embracing superhero and horror fans.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison (List price: $28.00, Orbit), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.
Katie Straw worked at a women's shelter. She was really good at her job because seemed to understand how the residents were feeling as they hide out from, and attempted to recover from their abusive situations.Then Katie is found dead, an apparent suicide, or so the police believe, until they discover that she was NOT who she claimed to be. Told in the voice of "then" and "now" Katie tells her story leading up to her death, and the lead police detective tells his as the investigation continues.This is a debut novel by Jessica Moor, she has created a difficult read at times as the varying themes of abuse are brought to light. A difficult book to read as you come to fear that Katie's killer may just get away with murder!
The Keeper by Jessica Moor (List price: $16.00, Penguin Books), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.
This is an intriguing and touching memoir of James's struggles early in life and how she rose to career highs with hard work and motivation. She suffered abuse as a young woman and throughout her work life simply because she was a female and the way she shook it all off is inspiring. This book really shows the rewards of dedication to one's craft and that you don't need formal schooling to make something of yourself. I am so impressed at her strength and intellect and would love to hear more of her story.
Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James (List price: $26.99, Ecco), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
Laurie has been with her partner for 18 years. He's been her first and only and she's still just as much in love with him now. So she's shocked one evening when he gets home and he tells her that he doesn't want to have kids and he feels trapped. He wants to break up. Laurie is heartbroken and since they work together, she has to see him all the time. It gets worse when he immediately starts dating someone else. And then his new girlfriend is pregnant. Laurie is destroyed, but when she gets trapped in an elevator with Jaime, the office Lothario. They soon concoct a fake romance. She makes her ex jealous and he shows he's more serious to his bosses so he can hopefully snag a promotion. This is a fun romance. Laurie and Jaime are hilarious and fun together. This my first read from this author, but I hope to read many more now!
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (List price: $15.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer
How to Be Fine is self-help book guide to reading self-help books. But also just a self-help book for the modern world. Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer have done the heavy lifting of reading and living by popular self-help books and then distilled them down into what worked, what didn't, and what they wished would be addressed more. Readers can use this as a stand alone self-help or a guide to finding more, but anyone with a desire to better themselves will be served by giving this a read. The authors frequently emphasize that "Only you are an expert in you," and that is a message we can all stand to hear more often.
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer (List price: $25.99, William Morrow), recommended by Page 158 Books, Winston-Salem, NC.
Then The Fish Swallowed him is an amazing debut for Iranian author, Amir Ahmadi Arian. The novel is set in modern Tehran and follows bus-driver Yunus from a weekly book-club, to a bus-drivers’ union strike, to an unexpected arrest, and finally to solitary confinement in prison, peppered with days of brutal interrogation. Yunus replays his life in his mind while imprisoned to figure out how he ended up in this position, and even develops a mild version of Stockholm-syndrome as he ends up wanting to please his interrogator, Hajj Saeed. This book is blistering and unforgiving, but it’s also incredibly beautiful in describing the struggle of an everyday citizen in Tehran. It’s a great read to spur discussion for those looking for book-club picks.
Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian (List price: $25.99, HarperVia), recommended by .novel, Memphis, TN.
Night Vale fans rejoice! Here is the latest offering from the talented offbeat minds of Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink – creators of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I don’t want to give anything away because that would spoil your enjoyment of this book. However, I will say this much: If you are already listening to Welcome to Night Vale, get this book. If you aren’t already listening, you need to start listening!! While being a fan definitely helps, it is not ultimately a bar to reading and enjoying this book. It might even get you to start listening!
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor (List price: $21.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.
Four stories wheelbarrowed down a potholed pathway of flawed love 'round the fecund pond in history's horribly funded public park. The cartoon-strength attitudes of the four (or five) wonderfully constructed main characters gave me the strength to accept each of their fates with que sera and a sigh.
The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (List price: $28.99, Harper), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
Princess Alyrra has lived her life in fear. Between her cruel family and the court games she's been forced to play, she still managed to hold onto her humanity without breaking. So when she's sent to a far away kingdom to be wed, she sees it as a new beginning. That is, until a evil sorceress and a cruel rival get together to steal her identity and her face. This retelling of the Goose Girl was fantastic. Honestly, I don't care for the Goose Girl fairy tale, it distressed me a a child, so I was excited to see a retelling that gave some justice to the princess in a more satisfactory way. I also enjoyed how the prince was smart enough to figure out she'd been replaced. I hated when something was so obvious but no one but the reader saw it.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani (List price: $18.99, Harper Teen), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
Rose Gold Watts has been plotting revenge for a long time. She's had five years to think about it--the amount of time her mother, Patty, has been in prison. For years, Patty had their entire small town fooled into thinking Rose Gold was chronically ill from birth. But it was Patty's literal poisoning of her daughter that caused Rose Gold's frailty. Now a young adult, Rose Gold has a baby, a house, and a plan to make her mother's life a living hell. And as soon as Patty gets out of prison, Rose Gold sets that plan into motion. What follows is an amazing, gripping, twisted novel. I'd tell you more, but it's best if Rose Gold does that.
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (List price: $26.00, Berkley), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.