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RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
I am not normally a sci-fi fan but I loved The Martian so decided to give Vessel a try, and boy am I glad I did. It was an amazing look at NASA and the space program including protocols and hardships, and the lives and personal struggles of astronauts. Commander Catherine Wells was on a six-year mission to a newly discovered planet that was believed to be able to support life, when things went horribly wrong. Contact was lost and eventually all were assumed dead. Nine years after the mission was launched Catherine returned home–alone and with no memory of what happened. Vessel is a fast paced very readable novel with strong characters that gives a fantastic look at what could be reality and not fiction in a not-so-distant future.
Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols ($27.00*, Atria/Emily Bestler Books/Alloy Entertainment), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Michael 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.
Steph, 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.
Furyborn was incredible. Kingsbane is even better! The second novel has even more magic, cliffhangers, and romance. So much packed into this book I want to sit with the author and understand how she can possibly make all this come together so eloquently. Already excited for the next one in this trilogy. This is a wild ride.
Kingsbane by Claire Legrand ($18.99*, Sourcebooks Fire), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.
In his last week before starting first grade, a boy and his family set out for a week long camping trip. As they begin to unpack and set up camp, a tiger steps into the clearing. Thin but beautiful, the tiger asks the boy if there is possibly a tent for him. Through the week, the boy and the tiger hike to new places, paddle the lake, fish and watch the stars. They do things neither would risk on their own. And when the week is over, the two must go their own way, both better for their time together.
Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, John Rocco (Illustrator) ($17.99*, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Karen Russell's latest collection of short stories are as bizarre, haunted and exquisitely crafted as I hoped they would be. The collection begins with "The Prospectors," wherein two young women attempt to attend an elegant affair and end up dancing with a group of dead boys. In the titular story, a new mother nurses a devil every night and all the while Russell is dissecting the postpartum experience with grace and humor. And in what is possibly my favorite of the collection, "The Gondoliers," about a girl with the qualities of a bat who navigates a dangerous, drowned new world, Russell proves that no one can write south Florida quite like her.
Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.
Some memoirs transcend the author's experience and become universal. I always thought of those as the good ones. Then I read Jayson Greene's memoir of loss and grief and was forced to confront the fullness of his individual humanity in a way I haven't experienced before. Grief is distinctly personal and Greene's story of the death of his two year old child is simply unfathomable to me, yet his honesty and willingness to sit in the fearfulness of life resonated deeply.
Once More We Saw Stars is a wonderfully written memoir that connects on an almost primitive level.
Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene ($25.00*, Knopf), recommended by Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.