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...

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway16-year-old Grace has just had a baby. After going through the pregnancy and choosing adoptive parents for her daughter, she now feels unmoored from her life before and wants to find her own biological family. That's how her biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin, come into the picture. Maya, set apart from her adoptive family in looks and temperament, struggles with the fallout of her adoptive mom's secrets coming to light. And Joaquin, in foster care his whole life, struggles with the idea of being worthy of someone's love. All of them grapple with their sense of belonging, but now that they have each other, maybe that will be easier. Benway has written a touching, sometimes humorous, compulsively readable book that will resonate with anyone searching for their place in the world, showing that sometimes where you are is exactly where you belong.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway ($9.99*, HarperTeen), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

City of Girls by Elizabeth GilbertI remained unsure where Elizabeth Gilbert was taking me throughout the nearly 500 pages of City of Girls, but now that I've finished the final chapter, I'm glad I trusted her expert hand. I adored seeing the world through Vivian's eyes; her coming-of-age is, perhaps more than anything else, a love story, a tribute to the theatre and to New York City. Every one of Gilbert's characters is flawed and complicated (sometimes even downright awful), but somehow she's made every one of them likable and determined to grow, making for a compelling story I couldn't put down.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert ($28.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma JalaluddinAyesha At Last is a completely lovely Pride and Prejudice re-telling that does not shy away from depth. Jalaluddin delves into the subjects of racism, religion, and gender with deft and care and manages to retain the sense of romance and charm all the while. I'd say this skill makes her a perfect choice for Austen retellings. I'd consider this novel a great "what next?" recommendation for fans of The Kiss Quotient or The Wedding Date.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura TuckerWhile Ollie sticks to graphite grey in her drawings, Tucker's debut vibrates with vivid color in its strong sense of place and well-sketched characters. It has that timeless quintessence that evokes such classic New York City adventures as Harriet the Spy and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, and it is sure to delight fans of Rebecca Stead and Laura Marx.

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker ($17.99*, Viking Books for Young Readers), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

Give, a Novel by Erica C. WitsellI realize that this book is, in large part, about sisterhood. Unfortunately, I don't have a sister or a similar relationship to measure against. I loved Emma and Jessie anyway, and found them credible characters in their own right. Emma's struggle to find a nourishing relationship is deeply touching. The dynamics between the two of them and between Laurel and Jessie are written with honesty and affection.

But what grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go was Witsell's descriptions of parenting and motherhood. It's unflinching in a way that I haven't read before without someone being written as a monster. Laurel isn't a monster; She's just not cut out for motherhood. She's a flawed person whose flaws are particularly incompatible with mothering. God, I sympathized with her. Early motherhood was frequently intolerable for me as well, and I found a sort of weird validation from reading someone else who wasn't very good at it. However, I also loved Sarah's character. She wasn't any more perfect than Laurel was imperfect.

I especially applaud Witsell's commitment to Laurel's integrity. Laurel never "rises above" or adopts the proper level of selflessness. It would have been pretty but dishonest to do otherwise. Even when her intentions are good, as with baby Liza, she manages to get it all wrong.

Everything about this book feels real, genuine, and honest. It it were written as memoir, I would believe it, but I think it somehow points to even larger truths by being written as fiction.

Give by Erica C. Witsell ($19.95*, BQB Publishing), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

The Sentence Is Death by Anthony HorowitzAnthony Horowitz keeps getting better and better. A continuation on the clever conceit he initiates in The Word Is Murder, Horowitz once again finds himself as a character in his own detective novel. He begrudgingly teams up with Hawthorne in order to solve not one, but three suspicious deaths.

Horowitz has developed a unique storytelling method and I hope this is not the last one we see.

The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz ($27.99*, Harper), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The Flatshare by Beth O'LearySure, the premise of The Flatshare requires you to suspend some disbelief, but that's true of the very best romantic comedies, isn't it? Beth O'Leary has created a feel-good page turner with characters you'll actually care about. Perfect for summer reading, and begging to be translated onscreen.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary ($26.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA.

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia HardstarkLook. Listen. This is the best book about people talking about their obsession with true crime and pets. Also, their anxiety, therapy, cults, addictions, feminism, and how an overheard story about murder at a party led to a long, coffee-drenched lunch that then led to the My Favorite Murder Podcast and the Murderino Empire (it's an empire if I say it's an empire). It's not a cult, so no need to call your dad...unless he's interested in true crime. Everything you love about the podcast, although Kilgariff and Hardstark dive deeper and share more than ever.

Warning: May result in screaming "Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered!" to friends, family, and the occasional stranger. But seriously, SSGDM, readers!

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark ($24.99*, Forge Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

TITLEAuthor Domenica Ruta builds a wonderful and complex narrative around the fictional holiday of Last Day, a superstitious holiday of cleansing celebrated every year on the supposed eve of the apocalypse.

Last Day follows a collection of misguided characters as they navigate their relationships and the events leading up to the next Last Day celebration. Ruta builds dynamic characters who are always capable of surprising you, no matter how wrong they seem to be about everything.

Last Day by Domenica Ruta ($27.00*, Spiegal & Grau), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine WargaThe middle-grade fiction genre is really taking off! I picked up this book to give to a friend and ended up devouring it in a few hours, so now I'm even more excited to give it to her. The poetic structure was brilliant and moving; I think this is a great introduction for kids to poetry and narrative poetry in particular. The story itself was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, and I will admit I cried quite a few times! Getting to know Jude was such an honor and a pleasure, and Warga did a beautiful job of making her come to life.

In our current political atmosphere, and in the wake of the terror attack on the New Zealand mosques, this story is even more important than ever. I hope it will encourage kids to learn more about their Middle Eastern and Muslim brothers and sisters, and that they will begin to foster an awareness of the world outside America. It certainly had that effect on me. I don't give tens freely, but this touching story deserves every point!

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga ($16.99*, Balzer + Bray), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.

How Not to Die Alone by Richard RoperRichard Roper's debut is utterly delightful. I was spellbound from the very first page. Andrew's job is a sensitive one: when someone dies at home alone, Andrew is called to literally dig through personal effects and determine if there are any next of kin from scraps of paper or old holiday cards. Dealing daily with the dearly departed combined with Andrew's obsession with model trains, dysfunctional office mates, and an estranged sister, results in a compelling read. Funny, smart, sad, Roper's How Not to Die Alone is just wonderful.

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

Vessel by LIsa A. NicholsI 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.

Prairie Fever by Michael ParkerMichael 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.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. JacksonSteph, 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.

Kingsbane by Claire LegrandFuryborn 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.

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, John Rocco (Illustrator)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.