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In a town of extreme wealth and poverty with little in between, George Clare comes home one afternoon to find his three year old daughter alone and his wife murdered, without a clue by whom. Immediately, of course, George becomes the chief suspect. Set over the course of a generation in a community where local farms are dying out and other unsolved crimes evolve, Brundage creates a community of mystery. Move over, The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (Knopf) Recommended by Richard at Square Books Oxford MS
“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.
Meghan Mayhew Bergman has done it again.
I loved her story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, and am equally impressed with her brilliant new collection, Almost Famous Women. Bergman takes obscure women from the past and creates a fictional world within the context of their real histories.
Siamese twins, Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, and Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly are among her chosen subjects. Bergman is a young writer on the rise, and this book, due out in January, will set the new year's bar high for people who love short stories as I do.
Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman ($25, Scribner), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC
Despite its title, you should most definitely not read this book while you're alone. Isolated in a rundown, sprawling mansion that was once an elaborate murder mystery retreat, Seda and her family are mostly immune to their temporary home's creepy and eccentric history. But when a group of teenagers come seeking refuge, a scavenger hunt meant to entertain ends up entangling everyone into one horrific night of terror. Is it the house, or something else that is haunting Seda as she tries her best to protect her family and the unwelcome guests from harm? Balog interjects the house's past throughout the novel, and I've never wanted to visit a fictional place more. The perfect book for thrills and chills, with a devious and delightful ending!
Alone by Cyn Balog ($17.99*, Source Fire), recommended by Fountain Bookshop, Richmond, VA.
This remarkable collection of maps, photographs, engravings and paintings from the early ages to modern day provides a stunning new look at the world as defined by our struggles and alliances with the monsters and supernatural creatures that have defined our existence
Learn how a mechanical man helped write America’s Declaration of Independence. Track the course of the Living Dead virus from Africa to Europe and on to the New World.
Alternate Histories of the World by Matthew Buchholz (Perigee Trade) Recommended by Will at Fountain Bookstore Richmond VA
Miller's writing is stripped down and carefully refined, packing a whole vision of the world into as few eye-widening details as possible. The stories in this collection explore the realities of women living between two worlds, with one foot in the future their meant to be striving toward and the other firmly rooted in their usually grim and booze-filled present. Though the stories can verge on the harsh, they always evoke a world that is immediately recognizable and palpably real. A great new collection by a writer who never seems to disappoint.
Always Happy Hour ($24.95, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Donovan, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.
When fifteen-year-old Anna can’t stand her home life, she steals her stepmother’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles to stay with her aspiring actress half-sister and ends up getting hired to research the Manson girls, a real group of murderous young women in the 1960s, for an indie film. What Anna ends up finding isn’t quite refuge; instead, it’s a clear look at herself and a realization about the dark heart of American girldom (as well as a little romance).
American Girls by Alison Umminger ($9.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by Hills & Hamlets Bookshop, Chattahoochee Hills, GA.
American Gods is an entertaining story that hooks readers from the beginning and does not let go of them until the tale is done. It is the 'Twilight of the Gods' as a new order rises to challenge the old. America is the battleground and the future of the world hangs in the balance. The enigmatic Mr. Wednesday seeks to control the flow of events, and he has hired a most unique individual, Shadow, to assist him. For anyone who has ever wondered whatever became of the old gods of myths and legends, the answer is as deceptively simple as it is complicated: They came to America.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman ($19.99, William Morrow), recommended by Bud, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.
Smart, concise, honest, and a bit creepy, this is definitely the most entertaining collection of short stories I have ever read. Each story appears to be about normal, stay-at-home women. They are perfectly polite and rather lovely. But as the story progresses, the strange details and heightened emotions escalate until you suddenly find yourself somewhere you never imagined the story could go. American Housewife is hilarious and satirical.
It’s more than a little unsettling, and always surprising. And yet beneath the manicured nails, cherry-red lipstick, and unshakable poise, there is a wealth of honest emotion. These women go extreme lengths to protect themselves and the things they value. They choose people to love, and care for them without question. They know exactly who they are and how they want their lives to be. It is rare to find a collection of stories that celebrates strong, feminine characters while embracing the ridiculousness that is being an American woman.
Read more at Lemuria Books' blog...
American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis ($24.00*, Doubleday Books), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.
This debut novel by a Canadian journalist who has reported on war from Afghanistan to the Black Lives Matter movement imagines a Second Civil War in the US in the years 2074-2093 and its aftermath. Not surprisingly, the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia ("the MAG") secede over oil issues from a Union that has quite literally, mostly due to climate change, deteriorated into a smaller country whose capital is Columbus, Ohio. Mexico has reclaimed its old territories, a president has been assassinated, the Mississippi River is now the Mississippi Sea... Well-drawn southerners struggle to keep body and soul together and to undermine the northern aggressors One woman in particular, Sarat, emerges as a hero but....no spoilers! Compelling and scary.
American War by Omar El Akkad ($26.95, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Lisa, Square Books, Oxford, MS.
What is unusual and so appealing about Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is that the novel takes two issues that separately we’ve heard so much about—the European Jewish experience and the Jim Crow era south—and blends them together in a way that demonstrates a fresh perspective. I found it powerful and engaging.
Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb (Other Press, $25.95), recommended by Stephanie at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL.
James Beck wasn’t a criminal when he was sentenced to prison on a falsified charge of killing a policeman, but he was very, very smart and he did what he had to in order to survive.
Eight years later when his conviction was overturned he left prison with a group of ex-cons who would do anything for him. They were family, so when a distant cousin of one of the ex-cons needed help James Beck stepped in. Little did he know they would soon be fighting a Russian arms dealer, Bosnian war criminals and the NYPD.
Among Thieves is an amazingly intelligent, fast paced, well written story about how to get even, steal 116 million dollars and not end up back in jail.
Among Thieves by John Clarkson (Minotaur) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC
I fell in love with Tayari Jones's writing when I read Silver Sparrow in 2011, and I've been waiting somewhat impatiently for Tayari's next book, An American Marriage, to be published. It was well worth the wait. An American Marriage is a beautifully crafted story of love, loyalty, and loss in the midst of an undeserved but all too common tragedy. What does it mean to truly love someone? How can marriage vows be kept when something so unexpected comes between spouses? Just read this. Do not read the jacket copy. Do not read a synopsis. Just trust me.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler ($16.00*, Scribner Book Company, recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is an intimate look at the tragedy. McCracken is very clear about the things that helped and the things that made healing more difficult. She tells without holding back about delivering the infant after learning he had died, and about her second pregnancy and the ways it was influenced by the first.
I gained great insight from this book into what grieving people need, and although I know all of us grieve differently, McCracken’s book will help me support those in my life who suffer from the death of a loved one. In one of my favorite quotes from the book, McCracken says, "The dead don’t need anything. The rest of us could use some company."
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (Back Bay Books) Recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC