Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week


Read This Now: The Index

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!

Browse the whole list!


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!

Browse the Read This Now Index!


RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

Big Lies in a Small Town

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick


Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

I could not stop reading this book, even though at one point I wanted to stop, because I knew it wasn't going to end well. A blend of Romeo and Juliet with Hatfield and McCoy, set in a "nice" contemporary American neighborhood where "these things shouldn't happen." A heart-breaking, eye-opening must-read!


McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC

...A tragic story that so exactingly encapsulates this era of entitlement we are muscling our way through, where McMansions sprout like weeds, money talks more than reasons, and lives are changed irrevocably because of cultural distrust. Frankly, the best description I can provide for this powerful novel is: WOW!


Story on the Square, McDonough, GA

I can't put into words the emotions I feel after reading this book, but I what I can say is that Therese Anne Folwer has written a masterpiece. This powerful story is about the Whitmans, a white family, who have just moved next door to a black family, the Alston-Holts. Juniper Whitman and Xavier Alston-Holt are teenagers who fall in love with each other, but tension arises after Xavier's mother Valerie files a lawsuit against Juniper's stepdad Brad. Fowler's writing from the African-American perspective and experience was done beautifully and right. I want everyone to read this book!


Processed CheeseProcessed Cheese is a hilarious trip into what our money driven society looks like from a third person. From adoration of guns and porn to the names of every character, Wright puts a mirror in front of all us and makes us question what we really value.

Processed Cheese by Stephen Wright (List price: $28.00,Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.

AshlordsNyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.

If you loved The Hunger Games, you'll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99,Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Flatiron Books | List Price: $27.99.


The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

...Propelled by fear and weighing the terror of what lies behind you against what lies ahead of you, to what lengths would you go to ensure the survival of your child? The urgent and precise prose forbids you to stop reading until the end, then lingers long afterward.


WordsWorth Books, Little Rock, AR

This is a gripping novel of loss, love, incredible bravery as a Mexican woman and her young son are forced to leave their home in Acapulco and, fearing for their lives, make the perilous journey north to the US...[A] literary novel with the pacing and action of a thriller.


Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Cummins has written a real tour de force with American Dirt. The story follows Lydia and her son as they run north to the US to escape the drug cartel leader who killed the rest of their family in Mexico. But it becomes something much more universal as it explores the journey that so many migrants have undertaken, whether in search of jobs or a better life or to escape certain death, and all the ways that this journey can impact lives.


Novel, Memphis, TN

An incredibly important novel with beautiful, real characters. A truly human story. This is indeed a story that needs to be told through as many voices as possible.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

...American Dirt is a raw exploration into the lives of people willing to sacrifice everything for a chance at happiness. You will not be able to put this book down as you become entranced in their lives...an important book demanding our attention with stories of drama and humanity. You will not want to put this down unless it is to share with a friend so you can talk about it

The Third Rainbow Girl "You cannot treat women only for a disease of which men are the main carriers. Nor, I knew, could you punish every man who fell ill." ~ Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Third Rainvow Girl is part true crime, part memoir, and fully compelling. On the frame of the unsolved Rainbow Murders Eisenberg hangs a discussion of Appalachian life and the complicated history its people have with one another, their history, and the rest of the nation. Traditional true crime reads may find the structure off-putting at first, but the alternating of past and present day events give a richer picture of a community defined by the murder of outsiders.Content warning for discussions of violence, bigotry, alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault.

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg (List price: $27.00, Hachette Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Winston-Salem, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

Big Lies in a Small Town

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick


Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Big Lies in a Small Town is the story of the artist Anna Dale in Edenton, NC in 1940. It is also the story of the artist Morgan Christopher in Edenton, NC in 2018. Each story is a fascinating look at a small Southern town including the social mores that prevailed. Each story is a fascinating character study of women who have faced tragedy and hardship and how they overcame it. Each story is a story of love and friendship. Each story could have stood on its own but they are woven together brilliantly to produce a novel that will make you just as curious as Morgan was to find out what happened to Anna and why in the world did she paint such gory things into a mural that was supposed to be hung in the town post office as a representation of the town of Edenton. If you love great Southern fiction, if you love a mystery, if you love rich characters, and if you love history and art you will not want to miss this fabulous novel.


Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

This caught my eye because it's my usual fave (twisty mystery!) and it's set in Edenton, NC--a tiny coastal town where my in-laws happen to live. I love the town so I knew I'd love a book set there and I was right. This story stands on its own even despite the family connection and I was taken by it from the start. Morgan is released from a prison sentence under the condition that she restores an old mural from the 40s that has been badly damaged. She has no background in art restoration and is surprised to find out that she was chosen by a late artist she had admired but never met, and his conditions were strict so she has no choice but to accept. Anna, the original artist on the mural, tells her half of the story in flashback alternating chapters. We learn that she was chosen to paint the mural over some local artists and she has to deal with that fallout once she arrives in town to start work. She takes on some students to assist and becomes close with one in particular. Anna's story takes us down a dark path of racism and violence in the small town and as Morgan works on the mural, Anna's secrets unfold in a twisted, sad tale. The characters in the book leap off the page and weave a tale of family, friendship, death, and despair that will keep you glued to the pages until the final secret is revealed.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

Diane brings to life two strong women in different times struggling against the constraints they have imposed on themselves. Morgan Christopher takes the fall for a crime she did not commit, and is serving a three-year stint in a North Carolina prison. Desperate to leave prison she agrees to restore a mural in a small town, shrouded in secrets. What she finds under the layers of years of dirt and neglect is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, a conspiracy and maybe clues to a 1940s disappearance of the original mural painter. Diane writes with such a keen eye to detail and this book will take you for a ride while making you understand the why of someone's mistakes.


Sunrise Books, High Point, NC

Switching between 1940 and 2018 in the small town of Edenton, NC, this story slowly unfolds to reveal the slow decline (into insanity?) of artist, Anna Dale, (1940). Anna was from New Jersey, and some folks felt she had no place painting a mural depicting their small Southern town; especially when they had a talented local artist! Anna bucks against the social racism of the day when she "hires" a young African-American teen to help in her work, and runs afoul of the "movers and shakers."

Morgan Christoper, just released from prison (2018), is given the job of restoring the mural that Anna painted decades ago. Chosen for the job even though she has NO experience in art restoration, and there is a nearly impossible deadline imposed on the completion of the restorative process. Seems a set-up for failure, but failure is not an option for many reasons. Diane Chamberlain delivers another superb novel for her loyal followers!

Just Like a MamaJust like Mama would, Mama Rose makes sure Olivia learns to ride a bike, has her hair braided just so, and that she plays outside every day. Just like Mama would, Mama Rose tells Olivia one day she will grow her own wings and fly, and Just like Mama, Mama Rose tells Olivia she is loved. Just Like a Mama is the perfect way to honor everyone who fills the gap when Mama cannot always be there.

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator) (List price: $17.99, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

Dark and Deepest RedThis lush and lovely novel has heartbreaking prose, gorgeous imagery, and a story that connects ancestors through threads of red satin. McLemore's razor-sharp focus cuts through the inherent racism of small-town superstition; even in a town with a magical "glimmer," darker skinned people are held at arms length and watched with suspicion. This book, as all McLemore's books are, is for outsiders bereft at the close-mindedness of the status quo and provides substantial comfort that no one is alone.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna Marie McLemore (List price: $17.99, Feiwel & Friends), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

TITLEAs the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his parents and brother, Edward Adler has a difficult path to navigate. Learning to live in a world without his parents and brother, finding a new home with his aunt and uncle, and grappling to figure out what his own future will look like, Edward's journey is a heartbreaking and hopeful story. I was immediately drawn into this book and couldn't stop reading until I finished, and I can't wait to share Dear Edwardwith readers.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (List price $27.00, The Dial Press), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

TITLEI usually don't laugh out loud while reading but this book had me at a whole new level. Hilliard weaves her journalism background with her messy childhood to produce a surprisingly well-researched memoir filled with food and admirable naiveté. I loved getting a glimpse into her hilarious, insightful world.

F*ck Your Diet by Chloé Hilliard (list price: $27.00, Gallery Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

Hill Women by Cassie ChambersAs someone raised in West Virginia, Hill Women struck a particular chord with me. Cassie Chambers delivers an honest narrative about the challenges of life in one of the poorest regions of the country while giving voices to the women who lifted up her life and the lives of those around her. Highlighting their unwavering work ethic, generosity, and fight for the younger generations, Chambers shows how growing up with the influence of these women in her family helped formed the person she became, eventually being educated at an Ivy League school and returning to the region to help provide legal assistance to the very communities in which she was raised. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the Appalachian region and for readers who enjoy insightful biographies like Educated.

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers (PRICE*, PUBLISHER), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

The Night Country

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Night Country by Melissa Albert
Flatiron Books | List Price: $18.99.


Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

The Hazel Wood was merely the introduction to the dark and sinister world of fairy tales that Albert so lovingly crafted, and The Night Country is the firing of the cannon and the explosion and aftermath that follows. Alice, as you know, was left stranded, essentially, in the real world, with nothing to really anchor herself to a life worth living. So if you're like me, you wanted to know what was next, you wanted to see Alice at least have some sort of happiness to her name, no matter how dark the story is meant to be. And Albert certainly delivers on everything you could ever want as a fan of the first book. It's a perfect middle and end to this world that we've adored since 2018, and maybe will continue to enjoy! However Melissa Albert sees fit, I'm positive she'll build us a story that's worthy of our wildest childhood dreams.


Square Books, Oxford, MS

Albert's world of unforgiving fairy tales swells to the perfect crescendo in this sequel to The Hazel Wood. Alice, an ex-Story, is trying her best to re-assimilate to a world that no longer feels familiar, while Ellery Finch is off exploring lands unknown. Alice may have left the Hinterlands behind, but the Hinterlands isn't done with her, and as other ex-Stories are picked off one by one, Alice will have to find the end of her tale, come ice, feather, or bone. The Night Country is a star-spun world of horror and wonder you'll want to live in forever.


Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

From the first page to the last, Melissa Albert's debut novel The Hazel Wood had me in its thrall and I've been pressing it into the hands of every fairy tale enthusiast who walks into the bookshop since! Well, Melissa Albert must be made of magic, because The Night Country is somehow even more thrilling, delightful, creepy, and full of surprises than its predecessor. Having escaped the Hinterland with the help of Ellery Finch, Alice Proserpine is back in gritty New York City, the only problem is that so are the other denizens of that dark world—and someone's murdering them one by one. Meanwhile, Ellery's trying to find a way out of the dying Hinterland himself…and a way back to Alice too. The Night Country builds off the world of The Hazel Wood beautifully, becoming a door to a vast, wonderfully constructed universe that gleams with magic like a blade glinting in the dark.


Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

If you enjoyed The Hazel Wood, don't miss following Melissa Albert into the dark and harrowing depths of The Night Country. In this new genre-bending novel, while expanding the universe we last encountered, Albert has managed to stretch the limitations of story itself. True thrills, horror, mystery, and more of the original fairytales we've come to expect await in this brilliant follow-up.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

The Night Country skirts between dark fantasy and horror. It takes the rich world building of The Hazel Wood and somehow makes it thicker, more viscous, until the reader is inevitably tangled up with Alice and Emory and the less than savory denizens of the Hinterlands. I loved every minute of it.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara PrescottThis is the story of a covert operation to smuggle the banned manuscript of Doctor Zhivago out of the Soviet Union and into print. It’s a story of art and power, identity and trust. Perfect for fans of The Americans or anyone who likes a page-turner.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran FoerA philosophical meditation on climate change, We Are the Weather is Jonathan Safran Foer's impassioned plea to readers to heed the signs of climate change and recommends a plant-based diet (until dinner) as the single action most individuals can take to make a personal impact. Using key moments from history - like the blackouts of WWII--combined with his own personal struggles and conscience, Foer's latest work will leave you unsettled, emotionally charged, and motivated to make whatever changes you can to help preserve what's left of the planet we call home.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer ($25.00*, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. AndersonGet your TBR (To Be Read) list out, it’s about to double! Monster, She Wrote is a guide to the amazing female pioneers of horror, speculative fiction, and to the women propelling these genres today. Organizing the authors you love into time period and theme, Monster, She Wrote builds a comprehensive history on how women have impacted the genre.

For each author profiled authors Kroger and Anderson give another with comparable works and styles. Love gothic novelist Margret Cavendish? Try some selected works from Regina Maria Roche or Ann Radcliffe. With so many more wonderful authors to explore, Murder, She Wrote is sure to be a staple reference for seasoned horror fans and newcomers alike!

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. Anderson ($19.99*, Quirk Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

City of Beasts by Corrie WangIt can get all too easy to joke about the patriarchy and its toxic effects because the jokes help cover up the pain that goes along with a deliberate, toxic system. Somehow, the brilliant Corrie Wang has crafted a novel that actually challenges that notion while delivering a page-turning adventure filled with heart, humor, and radical empathy.

City of Beasts brings fresh life to the post-apocalyptic YA landscape with characters who just won’t quit and that you’ll have a hard time letting go of. Glori Rhodes is a force of nature, and the cast of characters that flank her are captivating and pulsating.

City of Beasts by Corrie Wang ($17.99*, Freeform), recommended by Itinerant Literate Books, North Charleston, SC.