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...
Like 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.
In Normal People, Sally Rooney has created an exquisite character study in Connell and Marianne's relationship. Like a slow-burning fuse that is destined to detonate, the dynamic between the two manages to be irresistible, infuriating, and all too relatable. Young people will find themselves in these pages, and, believe it or not, feel normal. Great for those who loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Modern Lovers.
Normal People by Sally Rooney ($26.00*, Hogarth), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
For most of history, John Adams and his son, John Quincy, have been given a bad rap for being unpopular at their times (both one term presidents) as well as skeptics of democratic government. I used to be one of the haters myself. But as the political situation has progressed (or regressed) over the years and a lot of the problems the Adams's foresaw have come true, we realize maybe the bad rap was a unjustified. This dream team of Isenberg and Burstein dig deep into the political thinking of this father and son who deserve far more credit then they've ever received. Excellent stuff.
The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg, Andrew Burstein ($35.00*, Viking), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Wow! What a powerful story and terrific courtroom drama from a debut novelist. Kim’s background as a trial lawyer and a teen aged immigrant from Korea really brought to life the struggles the Yoo family face trying to get to America for the sake of their daughter and makes the courtroom drama so intense that you wish you were there to hear the lawyers’ interrogations in person.
Miracle Creek is a remarkably written story about families and what sacrifices are made and what lies are told to try and protect those near and dear. But, the lies – which seemed harmless by themselves – stack up like dominoes and soon cascade to a tragic end, one that might not have happened if just one small seemingly insignificant act or one small seemingly insignificant lie had not occurred.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim ($27.00*, Sarah Crichton Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Well, 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.
Well, bless my heart. I love this masterful, whip-smart essay collection so much, I might just dip some Nutter Butters into melted white chocolate, dot them with candy buttons, eat them, and call it a day. Or maybe I'll hop a flight to Topeka, where I won't take part in a three-way. Or maybe I'll clean my whole apartment! The truth is, I just don't quite know what to do with myself after reading Southern Lady Code. It is so, so GOOD, so rooted in its perspective, and so candid; plus, it's so remarkably, frequently moving, oftentimes in unexpected ways. In short, this book is...well, whatever Southern Lady Code is for "a triumph."
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis ($22.00*, Doubleday), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
A 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.
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.
I enjoyed this intimate portrayal of Valerie's Jarrett life from childhood to life after eight years in President Obama's administration. This memoir will greatly appeal to anyone who appreciates political memoirs, gender and race studies, or current events.
Finding My Voice by Valerie Jarrett ($30.00*, Viking), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
Caterpillar Summer is a heartwarming novel about a brother, Chicken, who has special needs and a sister, Cat, who tries too hard to protect him. Cat's and Chicken's mom works long hours since their dad died. Although Cat is just in fifth grade, she tries to fill in as a part-time mom for Chicken. An unexpected visit with their grandparents, whom they have never met, teaches Cat a lot about being a kid and reveals a lot about her mom that she never knew before. A wonderful debut novel!
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn ($16.99*, Bloomsbury Childen's Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
This novel is definitely true to its title, made up almost entirely of women talking--illiterate Mennonite women of a remote colony who have recently realized that the nighttime terrors the men of the colony have told them are dreams or demonic possessions or punishment for sins were actually these men, their relatives and neighbors, tranquilizing and then raping them.
Inspired by real events, this novel isn’t interested in the horrors of this Handmaid’s Tale-esque story but rather how these women come together to grapple with what they will do about this injustice, in light of their values, their faith, and their own limited understanding of the world. What may not come across in the elevator pitch of this book is how full of sparks the conversation is between these women, at turns funny, philosophical, biting, and real. This book was certainly thought-provoking but it was also a joy to read. Praise be women talking.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews ($24.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.
I don't usually read a book of essays, but Mary Laura Philpott's book I Miss You When I Blink had just the right touch of humor and honesty to appeal to me. Philpott's candid reflections on her life will mirror what many women see in their own. Her take on marriage, kids, career choices and her own perfectionist tendencies is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Phillpott ($26.00*, Atria Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Emily Duncan's Wicked Saints is dark, disquieting, and utterly unputdownable. Her ferocious girls and her doubtful princes and her devious gods are compelling and entirely believable, and her world of magic and blood and holy war will frighten and enchant readers, as any good fairy tale should.
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan ($18.99*, Wednesday Books), recommended by One More Page Books, Arlington, VA.
Dog lovers young and old will devour these fun canine inspired poets. Super cute illustrations of pups and owners will inspire giggles and young readers will surely ask to hear the rhyming poems again and again. Perfect for any dog lover!
Bark in the Park!: Poems for Dog Lovers by Avery Corman, Hyewon Yum (Illustrator) ($17.99*, Orchard Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
The top reviews kept saying "Les Mis in space!" and "if you liked The Lunar Chronicles, this is for you." Sometimes the reviews are right. If you like retellings and liked the Lunar Chronicles, you're going to love Sky without Stars!
I certainly did. The characters are fleshed out in a way you don't get from the original. I found myself falling in love and rooting for Marcellus, Aloutte, and Chatine. They're all wonderfully flawed in their own way and I stayed up way too late reading this. I can't wait for the next part of the story. The book wrapped up some loose ends while opening new ones--the best way to keep you excited for more.
Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody, Joanne Rendell ($19.99*, Simon Pulse), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
Justine is surrounded by celebrity and wealth, her shoulders brushing, bumping against it, but never quite attaining any of it for herself. When she meets her new neighbor, Eva Kate Kelly, a former child actress and shiny social media star, Justine's no longer just gazing at all the beautiful people on her phone, now she's among them.
A modern take on The Great Gatsby, but with lots more Taylor Swift references (for what it's worth, I am totally in agreement with Justine on what she thinks happened between Swift and Kanye West on that infamous phone call). Fun, neurotic, and twisty!
Fake Plastic Girl by Zara Lisbon ($17.99*, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
The first word I thought as I finished this book was "beautiful." With the precision of a surgeon, Lalami crafts a terrific follow up to The Moor's Account. Told in succinct chapters from many characters perspectives, she doesn't discredit their accounts or create unreliable narrators as much as she simply delves into human nature. As a young woman returns home with the news of her father's sudden death in a hit and run, she finds much more about herself and family secrets than she intends. Each character is wonderfully crafted and important to the story so that most of all I came away with the knowledge that you can never fully know all sides of a story. I have a feeling this will hold up through the year as a favorite.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami ($25.95*, Pantheon), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
Oh, Queenie, you got this! Queenie is a modern woman with all that entails: a job she should pay more attention to, a gaggle of girlfriends who have her back (mostly), an absent father, a mother she can't forgive, and most of all: romance troubles. Candice Carty-Willams's debut is brilliant, funny, modern, timely, and most importantly, entertaining.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams ($26.00*, Gallery/Scout Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
A fantastic feminist YA novel with shades of Stepford Wives and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse TV series. I have been a longtime fan of Young's Program series, and this new book blew me away! A sinister school for exceptional young ladies, a group of young women whose bond is stronger than any classroom programming, and a grasping patriarchy not prepared for the revolution. This book will have you flipping pages and sharpening sticks of your own.
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young ($18.99*, Simon Pulse), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Beautiful Bad opens with a police detective at the scene of a murder, but we have no idea who is murdered. More than a murder mystery it is a compelling story of the complex love between two friends and the hurt that results when their lives change. I loved reading about Maddie and Joanna’s adventures in the dangerous places they lived and played. I liked both characters (at first) and thought I understood why their friendship ended. Hidden desires, dark secrets, much manipulation, and an ultimate murder come painfully together as all lives are torn apart. Beautiful Bad is a riveting story with a surprise ending…is this a fight for survival, or something much more sinister?
Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward ($26.99*, Park Row), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.