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...
Odd—in the best way—and appealing, Drive Your Plow is equal parts mystery and environmental anthem. The novel’s protagonist is an older woman—bridge architect, English teacher, and translator of William Blake—whose love of animals and devotion to astrology lead her to blame the recent murders of hunters in her remote Polish village on the revenge of area wildlife. Olga Tokarczuk gives us a prickly, idiosyncratic character who resists pigeon-holing and slowly garners our sympathy and support, keeping us off balance and propelled toward the story’s resolution.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.
Sarah M. Broom grew up in New Orleans, New Orleans East to be exact, an area that tourists don't go to. Often neglected by the city administration, the area suffered even greater during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is a memoir of family history, the city's history, class and racism through the lens of the house Sarah grew up in, which was lost to "The Water." As she continues to get pulled back to the city despite her attempts at distance, she struggles with the meaning of "home" when it seems like home is always working against you. Exceptional and moving, this is the kind of memoir against which other memoirs get judged.
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom ($26.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
One of the best YAs I've read in years! I'm Not Dying with You Tonight is the story of two strong women who are polar opposites joining together to survive a night of racially fueled chaos. It's so well written and perfectly-rounded. It sucks you in from the first page and leaves you wondering what's next when you finish. This was a joy to read.
I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal, Kimberly Jones ($17.99*, Sourcebooks Fire), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.
The Year They Fell recounts the lives of Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana. They went through childhood together as the Sunnies, but eventually became more self-contained and broken after everybody's parents (except for Dayana's) die on the same plane crash. Life is forever changed and they all need time to heal. However, Harrison refuses to accept the validity of the plane crash, and convinces his friends to travel to the site of the crash to find how and why their parents died. Kreizman is such a powerful writer; the perspectives of the five main characters each feel so alive and authentic. So many events are packed into such a hefty plot that will surely leave you breathless in the end. I recommend this book to anyone going through a loss, or some other grief, because they are guaranteed to relate to one of the Sunnies and maybe even leave their tear stains on the pages.
The Year They Fell by David Kreizman ($17.99*, Imprint), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
I would read Shari Lapena's grocery list, y'all. She's so skilled at the twisty mystery and this new book is as good as her others. When suburban mom Olivia finds out that her teenage son has been breaking in to the homes of their neighbors, she is terrified that he'll be in serious legal trouble despite his assurances that he never steals, only snoops. When a pretty young wife - who happens to live in one of the houses he broke into - turns up dead, no one is free of suspicion. As we dive deeper into the private lives of the neighbors, we learn that everyone is hiding something, and anyone could have done it.
Someone We Know by Shari Lapena ($27.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
It is amazing to me that Iris Johansen can keep the Eve Duncan series current, relevances and engaging this long, but she does in a compelling fashion. This is one of my favorites in quite some time, the supporting characters are so deep, and single minded in a quest for justice, that you immediately become invested. Journalists who are bold see the worst the world has to offer, corruption at the highest level, brutality for no reason, and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor. This story embodies all of the above with enough twists to keep you entertained to the end. Can easily be read as a stand alone book.
Smokescreen by Iris Johansen ($28.00*, Grand Central Publishing), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
An interesting take and an in depth look at the punctuation mark that haunts the literary and English speaking world alike. Cecilia Watson has brought us a book designated to those of us who just can't quite figure out how we feel about the semicolon.
Semicolon by Cecilia Watson ($19.99*, Ecco), recommended by Bookmarks, Bookmarks, NC.
Warning: This plot just might give you whiplash. Not to say that Jackson is ever predictable, but this is a whole 'nother level of WTF. Intelligently written and delightfully witty, it begins as a top-shelf suburban thriller, but then kicks up a notch. Protagonist Amy is likable and smart, but keeping a terrible secret or three. Our anti-heroine, Roux, is a real piece of work, and you can really understand Amy's strange attraction to her. I wasn't sure whether I wanted Amy to beat her or to BE her...until the end, when it becomes crystal clear. Along the way, we are treated to some lovely writing in praise of SCUBA diving, early motherhood, a genuine friendship, a reckless neighbor, and a deep, dark secret that threatens to upend Amy's happy world. And all the trouble begins with a boozy book club. It's just delicious reading.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.
As a North Alabama resident, I was delighted to learn about this new novel set right here at home. Wicklow, Alabama, is a little town that has a made-up name but feels oh-so-familiar. The southern food, characters, and community all drew me right in, and I fell in love with this charming story about a young woman who comes to Wicklow to take over her Granny Zee's café upon her death. Like Anna Kate, many of the charcters in this little town are struggling with grief of one kind or another, and yet this book isn't sad. It shows the wonderful way that a close-knit community can come together to lift each other up. The novel blends magical realism with true southern storytelling, and I can't wait to share this book with readers near and far. Sit down with some blackberry tea and a piece of pie, and let this novel feed your soul.
Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber ($24.99*, Forge Books), recommended by The Snail on the Wall, Huntsville, AL.
Jade War does absolutely everything you want from a sequel: expanding the world, raising the stakes, and further developing characters I loved from Jade City. Set largely in the fictional East-Asian inspired island of Kekon, Fonda Lee’s novel is an epic fantasy crime drama following the struggles of the Kaul family, leaders of the No Peak Clan, as they fight to maintain control of the island and it’s magical jade trade that grants users enhanced abilities.
Just like the first book, Jade War reads like a glorious mash-up of The Godfather and classic Hong Kong crime films; full of intense action, betrayal, and an expansive cast of memorable characters. Kekon and the capital city of Janloon feel vibrantly gritty and it’s a credit to Lee’s writing and worldbuilding that the cast never feels overstuffed and I never got bogged down in the details of trying to remember who is with what clan or the mechanics of the jade "magic." A suspenseful, barn-burner of a novel and I cannot wait to see how Lee brings this to a thundering conclusion in Book Three.
Jade War by Fonda Lee ($26.00*, Orbit), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
I was so nervous about a sophomore slump, but hooray! — there was nothing to be worried about.The Lager Queen of Minnesota is as delightful and well-written as Stradal's debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and I'm consistently impressed with his ability to make you deeply care about a place and its people. I’m a teetotaler from the South, and now I want to move to Minnesota and drink beer, so... I think it’s safe to say I loved this book. (No previous knowledge or appreciation of lager required.)
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA.
What a charming and utterly lovable book! I kept finding myself grinning and laughing out-loud (when I wasn't cringing at the content that was WAY too relatable). I recommend this for anyone looking for a fun romp through dating in your mid-twenties and anyone interested in learning a new perspective on Indian culture.
Under mounting pressure to get married and "start" her life, twenty-six year old English teacher Leila makes a deal with her parents -- if she can't find her own husband in three months, her parents can arrange a marriage for her. Thus we tumble with Leila through awkward first dates, ambush dates, speed dating, online dating and more as she attempts to find her Bollywood romance before her parents can set her up with a boring (or worse! OLD!) mate. Along the way, Leila learns more about herself, her culture, and her family.
The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem ($15.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
This fun and exciting scifi thriller is a page-turner and the perfect weekend read! What happened to the crew of the spaceship House of Wisdom? No one really knows. All of its crew members died within a 24-hour period. The government states that a lethal virus was intentionally released by a crew member. The ship is under quarantine as it’s not safe to go onboard. But someone is going to try. A small group from one of Earth’s desert cults is planning to board, clear and cleanup the ship and take it for themselves. They have even planned to kidnap the one survivor of the virus, Jas Bhattacharya, the son of the ship’s engineer, who can insure their entrance to the ship. But the government was wrong about what killed the crew.
And the small group boarding the ship is about to find out that what killed the crew is still there on the ship, waiting for another chance.
Salvation Day by Kali Wallace ($26.00*, Berkley), recommended by The Little Bookshop, Midlothian, VA.
Late Migrations is a gorgeous, somber treasure of a book. Death and its many forms permeate Margaret Renkl’s meditative work; from the death of her father to the death of a small bird in the road, grief is a constant companion throughout these pages. But the sorrow never becomes overwhelming; in fact, each passage takes on a unique, bittersweet wisdom that can only be gained by experiencing loss. Renkl’s part memoir, part nature writing, and part essay collection is a such a unique reading experience, and one I will remember and recommend for many years to come.
Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl ($24.00*, Milkweed Editions), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
Martin Clark's newest novel is a great summer read, fast moving with interesting characters and recognizable settings for those in a particular part of southwestern Virginia. In the book attorney Kevin Moore find himself in squeezed between a shady land-deal set-up and his need to redeem himself for earlier missteps. His already lost his wife, his home, his license and everything else he'd worked for. But he's determined to get as much of that back as he can. And he's willing to use every legal (and a couple of not so legal) tricks to get there.
Clark's characters are funny and familiar without becoming cliches. He faces his complicated legal situation while battling an irrational health insurance company and an overly enthusiastic dog. While watching is wife fade from his life, he's grabbing at budding romance.
Readers will feel sorry for Kevin less from his every more complicated troubles than because he's determined not to feel sorry for himself. You'll laugh out loud at Kevin's problems because they could so easily be our own. And with luck ours will tied up neatly in the end too.
The Substitution Order by Martin Clark ($27.95*, Knopf), recommended by Book No Further, Roanoke, VA.
Kelly is a successful robotics engineer who is unlucky in love, much to her family's chagrin. She's proud of her master's degree and her prestigious job but her parents and sister would like nothing more than for her to meet a nice man to bring to her sister's upcoming wedding. Kelly can't take the family pressure and builds Ethan, the perfect man - the only exception is that he's a robot. She grows attached to Ethan fast and as the wedding approaches, she wonders how she'll be able to say goodbye once it's over. Or does she have to?
This is a fun, original romance really caught me up in the story. The idea is a little silly but it's so endearing I couldn't resist but rooting for the characters and hoping for a happy ending for Kelly.
The Plus One by Sarah Archer ($16.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Could this possibly get any crazier?!” is a feeling that lingers through every page in this book. Very Nice is the perfect summer read, if I’ve ever known one! It is literary world meets soap opera in a quick-witted and ambitious way. Marcy Dermansky is a resourceful writer with an invaluable voice. She is able to flawlessly navigate these pages with a humor that’s timely and fresh. With that being said, I applaud her triumph in bringing together the lives of these VERY intricate characters. This novel is quirky, electric, intellectual, and impossible to put down.
Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.
A whimsical encyclopedia about the history, creation, and use of bitters in a playful and richly illustrated format. A perfect gift for someone who appreciates scientific method, but also enjoys a great (and interesting) cocktail.
Botany at the Bar by Selena Ahmed, Ashley Duval, Rachel Meyer ($22.95*, Roost Books), recommended by Righton Books, St. Simons Island, GA.
Quentin Garrison is working on a true crime podcast about a series of murders from the 1970s, committed by a teenage couple. Quentin thinks April, the female of the murderous couple, is the mother of Robin Diamond, a website columnist. At first Robin thinks this is ridiculous at first. But the more she looks into it, the more she's unsure of her conviction.
This is one of those books where very early on, you're SURE you know what the twist is and you're disappointed. But you keep reading to confirm your suspicions. But then the book throws you a curve and you were totally wrong. Soon you have no idea who really did what and you can't wait to find out.
Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin ($16.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
An entertainment lawyer in Hollywood going through a mid-life crisis joins a reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg in Southern California and is joined by a former playmate and Miss Universe. Ever thought you'd read all that in a sentence? I didn't either! I swear this book was written just for me. But y'all will love it too. Kevin Morris takes on the entertainment industry, American history and culture in this bizarre and hilarious story while also trying to figure out what "it all means." You will do some soul searching but mostly laughing!
Gettysburg by Kevin Morris ($26.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Witchcraft 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.