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 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.
What happens when wild meets the human race?Author Taylor Brown has flawlessly executed a sweeping story of exotic animal exploitation extending from the savannas of Africa, to a war-torn Baghdad zoo, to the Southeastern United States.
Anse Caulfield is a life-toughened Vietnam veteran and former jockey who, for reasons of his own, uses an ill-gotten windfall to establish Little Eden, a wildlife sanctuary on the coast of Georgia. Here, a collection of unforgettable mavericks, living on the periphery of society, wage an unofficial war of their own to rescue exotic animals from the hands of greed and cruelty.Brown has the rare ability to place his readers into the minds of his characters, allowing them to inhabit their skin. We can tap into their senses, passions, and motivations. Every page explodes and every line is pure poetry.
Pride of Eden is original, sensitive, and unsparing. This novel is one more notch in the belt that is Taylor Brown's literary genius.
Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown (List price: $26.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Coutnry Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Young, handsome, rich and riding high in polling, Congressman Alexander Paine (R) has everything going for him when a stuffed aardvark shows up on his doorstep. Not just any aardvark, but one taxidermied by highly respected Titus Downing in the late 19th century. The story alternates between these two men's lives and the secret they share giving readers a very entertaining ride.
Enter the Aardvark by Jessica Anthony (List price: $26.00, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy is an awesome journey. Hop on a sky-ship with twins, Arthur and Maudie, on an expedition headed for an arctic place yet to be explored, to find out what really happened to their explorer father. Full of excitement, intrigue and suspense, Brightstorm is an enthralling adventure not to be missed.
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (List price: $18.95, Norton Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.
It’s 1949 in Gladiola, Texas. Everyone in town is excited about the Merci train full of gifts rolling through from France as a thank you for America’s help in WWII. Glory Bea is expecting a special gift to arrive on the train, her father. No one can stop her from believing in this miracle, not her mom’s new boyfriend or the grownups who thwart her railroad scouting mission. Blue Skies is perfect for fans of heartfelt middle grade with a twist of humor.
Blue Skies by Anne Bustard (List price: $17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.
Most stories surrounding this era, especially concerning women, come from the Salem witch trials, and largely from the male perspective. It is refreshing to have a novel about early colonial female relationships from their viewpoint. The class and religious arguments Nesbit employs to her narrative add both more intrigue and layers to these previously one dimensional women. Though their circumstances were vastly different from women of today, the love and justice that fueled them remains evident today.
Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit (List price: 26.00, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
For the week ending 3/22/2020.
|1. The Mirror & the Light
Hilary Mantel, Holt, $30, 9780805096606
2. The Dutch House
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
3. American Dirt
Jeanine Cummins, Flatiron Books, $27.99, 9781250209764
4. Such a Fun Age
Kiley Reid, Putnam, $26, 9780525541905
5. The Night Watchman
Louise Erdrich, Harper, $28.99, 9780062671189
|1. The Splendid and the Vile
Erik Larson, Crown, $32, 9780385348713
Glennon Doyle, The Dial Press, $28, 9781984801258
Tara Westover, Random House, $28, 9780399590504
4. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Lori Gottlieb, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9781328662057
5. The Body
Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 978038553930
Wilmington's Lie by David Zucchino
From Pulitzer Prize-winner David Zucchino comes a searing account of the Wilmington riot and coup of 1898, an extraordinary event unknown to most Americans.
By the 1890s, Wilmington was North Carolina's largest city and a shining example of a mixed-race community. It was a bustling port city with a burgeoning African American middle class and a Fusionist government of Republicans and Populists that included black aldermen, police officers and magistrates. There were successful black-owned businesses and an African American newspaper, The Record. But across the state--and the South--white supremacist Democrats were working to reverse the advances made by former slaves and their progeny.
In 1898, in response to a speech calling for white men to rise to the defense of Southern womanhood against the supposed threat of black predators, Alexander Manly, the outspoken young Record editor, wrote that some relationships between black men and white women were consensual. His editorial ignited outrage across the South, with calls to lynch Manly.
But North Carolina's white supremacist Democrats had a different strategy. They were plotting to take back the state legislature in November "by the ballot or bullet or both," and then use the Manly editorial to trigger a "race riot" to overthrow Wilmington's multi-racial government. Led by prominent citizens including Josephus Daniels, publisher of the state's largest newspaper, and former Confederate Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, white supremacists rolled out a carefully orchestrated campaign that included raucous rallies, race-baiting editorials and newspaper cartoons, and sensational, fabricated news stories.
With intimidation and violence, the Democrats suppressed the black vote and stuffed ballot boxes (or threw them out), to win control of the state legislature on November eighth. Two days later, more than 2,000 heavily armed Red Shirts swarmed through Wilmington, torching the Record office, terrorizing women and children, and shooting at least sixty black men dead in the streets. The rioters forced city officials to resign at gunpoint and replaced them with mob leaders. Prominent blacks--and sympathetic whites--were banished. Hundreds of terrified black families took refuge in surrounding swamps and forests.
This brutal insurrection is a rare instance of a violent overthrow of an elected government in the U.S. It halted gains made by blacks and restored racism as official government policy, cementing white rule for another half century. It was not a "race riot," as the events of November 1898 came to be known, but rather a racially motivated rebellion launched by white supremacists.
In Wilmington's Lie, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Zucchino uses contemporary newspaper accounts, diaries, letters and official communications to create a gripping and compelling narrative that weaves together individual stories of hate and fear and brutality. This is a dramatic and definitive account of a remarkable but forgotten chapter of American history.
Remembering the stories of Betsy Byars
Her ladyship, the editor, and, she ventures, anybody who has been a child at some point during the last forty years, lost one of the most beloved voices of that childhood when Betsy Byars passed away last week at the age of 91.
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mrs. Byars made her home in Seneca, South Carolina, where she was a mentor to writers, a tireless advocate for literacy, a dog lover, and -- something her ladyship did not know -- a pilot. She also wrote over 65 novels for children including The Summer of the Swans, which won a Newberry.
The books we read and love as children are perhaps the ones that find the deepest, most secure place in our hearts. Years later, when favorite novels have come and gone as our lives change and evolve, those early stories are still with us still at the foundation of how we read, how we learned to see the world. We might forget about the book we read last year, but we never forget the one we read twenty or thirty years ago.
It puts the task of the children's writer into perspective does it not? What a daunting responsibility, to write for readers who, if you do it well, will remember what you wrote for the rest of their lives.
The stories that her ladyship knows were the ones from the 70s -- Midnight Fox, Summer of the Swans, After the Goat Man, The TV Kid, The Pinballs. Plus her personal favorite, Trouble River.
But Betsy Byars wrote stories for over forty years. There are readers who hear her name and think of an entirely different set of stores. The Cybil War, The Glory Girl, Cracker Jackson if they were children in the 80s. The Joy Boys, Tornado, the Golly Sisters, and Mud Blossom if they grew up in the 90s.
How many generations hold her books in their hearts?
Read independently, and shop local.
Why Indies Matter: Small Spaces, Deep Connections
by Susan Rebecca White
It’s a Tuesday, and I’m at North Decatur Presbyterian Church. I came here for a meeting, but that ended hours ago. Now, I’m working in the study, a cozy room lined with bookshelves that contain as many novels as theological tomes, as our co-pastors were both English majors.
Perhaps you are thinking, “That is all very nice, Susan. But what does it have to do with independent bookstores?” In my case, everything. I found NDPC because of Cynthia, who is married to Frank Reiss, who owns my neighborhood independent bookstore, A Cappella. Frank is Jewish, Cynthia Presbyterian, and when my husband and I were looking for a church, she suggested I check out North Decatur, which is known for its progressive theology and activism. From the first sermon I heard—which made space for doubt—I knew I had found my place.
Such a feeling of homecoming was not unlike first walking into A Cappella nearly 15 years ago, new to the neighborhood if not new to Atlanta, my MFA freshly minted, my drive to become a published novelist palpable. And when I did get published, Frank read the galley of Bound South, and called to tell me how funny it was, how well it captured a certain slice of Atlanta.
Soon after, Frank introduced me to Jessica Handler, whose memoir, Invisible Sisters, was published within months of Bound South. My writing group was short a member, so we invited Jessica to join, and over the years our friendship has grown and deepened. When I was going through a divorce, Jessica invited me over, fed me, and sat talking with me in her living room, a cat on each of our laps, a glass of wine in our hands, the guest bed freshly made, so that I didn’t have to worry about driving home. How cool that we each published a novel last year, and that our writing group critiqued early drafts of both books.
Truly, A Cappella Books has a history of providing me with unexpected treasures. Often the treasure is actual books. Visiting the store, I always find something perfect to read that I didn’t even know I was looking for. Once, it was How to Be Idle, a book that encourages people to, among other things, take more naps—which is, seriously, the best advice. Another time, it was The Skies Belong to Us, an account of the spate of airline hijackings that occurred from 1968-1975, a book that indirectly influenced my fourth novel, which explores a group of radical militants during the Vietnam war era. Last December, I found the charmingly illustrated Your Cabin in the Woods, a how-to guide that was a spot-on present—if only for daydreaming—for my carpenter husband.
Yes, I can sometimes find a book for cheaper on Amazon, but at what cost?
When I buy a book from A Cappella, I know that over 40 cents of every dollar spent gets reinvested into the local community. I know that A Cappella’s employees are paid fairly, and treated well. I know that they, in turn, promote books they love, including those written by lesser known authors. It’s a virtuous cycle of support, allowed for, in part, because A Cappella has no shareholders, demanding short-term profit above all.
Indies matter because, like a beloved place of worship—whatever the religion—they bind communities together. May we all worship at the altar of independent bookstores, for they deeply enrich our lives.
Susan Rebecca White is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Bound South, A Soft Place to Land, and A Place at the Table. A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program at Hollins University, Susan has taught creative writing at Hollins, Emory, SCAD, and Mercer University, where she was the Ferrol A. Sams, Jr. Distinguished Chair of English Writer-in-Residence. An Atlanta native, Susan lives in Atlanta with her husband and son.