GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

    When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren WeisbergerThere are several obvious ties to the preceding The Devil Wears Prada, but this sequel stands firmly on its own. With female friendships and independence as the backbone, it's a fun story perfect for summer reading.

    When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger ($26.99*, Simon & Schuster), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

    Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl"The first thing you must do is stay calm."

    This was the advice offered by The Keeper to Bee, Martha, Cannon, Whitney and Kip when they find themselves in the Neverworld Wake the first time. The Neverworld Wake is 11.2 hours the friends relive over and over a hundred, a thousand, possibly a million times as they search for answers about Jim's death, about the accident that threw them into the Wake, about the people they all thought they knew best in the world.

    This psychological thriller of the most fascinating sort--one in which one's worst nightmare is relived again and again--is an absolute beach bag MUST for fans of Gone Girl, We Were Liars and We Are the Goldens.  

    Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl ($18.99*, Delacorte Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

    The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad SellA great middle-grade graphic novel about friendship, family, and imagination, perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier. My 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son fight over who gets to read this book every day.

    The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell ($20.99*, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Legendary by Stephanie Garber

    Legendary by Stephanie GarberI wasn't sure it could be done, but Legendary is as good if not better than Caraval. I think the strength of this new novel lies in the expansion of the world and addition of a unique mythology, but there is so much to be said about Tella as the main protagonist as well. This book is full of the same magic, intrigue, gorgeous writing and romance that made Caraval one of my favorite books last year. I can't wait to see what Stephanie will write next.

    Legendary by Stephanie Garber ($18.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • Florida by Lauren Groff

    Florida by Lauren GroffLauren Groff lifts the curtain to the side of Florida the sunburned droves of tourists trekking to man-made meccas miss. Dark and dreamy and lush stories depicting lurking dangerous natural elements unique to Florida in conjunction with dissatisfied, insecure, and flawed characters, often wives and mothers trying to find a place that makes sense for them in this world. Each story is crafted by a master storyteller with a keen eye for humanity.

    Florida by Lauren Groff ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Will Walton

    I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Will Walton

    The avid readers of Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA have fallen in a collective swoon for Will Walton's newest work, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain. Part novel, part poem, the books chronicles a difficult summer of discovery, loss, love, and poetry for its young protagonist, Avery.

    "How in the world do I review this book? It's a love poem; it's a eulogy; it's poetry; it's prose; it's uplifting; it's heart-cracking," says Janet.

    "Suffused with pop music and funeral rituals, and complex, genuine love, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain is a nod to the vital importance of music and poetry as life-saving forces," adds Elizabeth.

    "On the first day of summer, Avery brings home a stack of poetry. Later that summer, as he tries to navigate crushing loss and disappointment, he turns to that poetry again and again; the reading and writing of it. This book is Avery's bold and thrilling record of his heartbreak, love, grief, and family. It's about creating art through pain, and dealing with pain through art. It blew me away," writes Tyler.

    "With a little help from the last century's greatest poets, Walton gives us an empathic and graceful, yet monumental, handling of what it's like to get through that which you think you cannot survive," writes Erica.

    "It's not often I read a book in one sitting, but this one grabbed me and wouldn't let go," writes Hannah.

    I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Will Walton ($17.99*, Push), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

    Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro Mark Oshiro easily captures the defiance and vulnerability quintessential to teen voice. These characters are vibrant and powerful--crafted with a truthfulness specific to our current political climate but also with a timeless understanding of teen life from any era. 

    Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro ($17.99*, Tom Doherty Associates), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

    The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet Could not put down! A couple recovering from a troubled marriage swaps houses with a stranger for a quick getaway vacation. Slowly, they discover that the stranger knows much more about them than they can imagine.

    The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY.

  • From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

    From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon The story of a teen filmmaker and her circle of friends--old and new--From Twinkle, with Love is sure to be a summertime hit. Recommended for fans of romantic comedy, both teen and adults readers!

    From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon ($18.99*, Simon Pulse), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Star of the North by David John

    Star of the North by David John

    Whatever you thought about North Korea before--including the risk of a nuclear attack--you will soon realize that it could be much, much worse.

    Jenna Williams is a young very well respected professor of foreign affairs. She is Korean American and the identical twin of Soo-min (Susie) who disappeared from a South Korean beach 12 years earlier while a student in Seoul. Soo-min supposedly drowned while picnicking with a fellow student. Mrs. Moon is a North Korean peasant woman who after spending the last 20 years on a prison farm decides to try her hand in the market place after finding and secretly keeping the contents of a balloon that landed in the woods near her home. Cho is a high ranking official in the regime who believes he is doing what is right.

    Star of the North may be fiction but each of the extremely well developed and interesting characters and each of their stories are based on facts gleaned from intelligence operations, stories from escapees, stories from prison camp guards and knowledge of the way our State Department works. When their three storylines intersect we are treated to a remarkable spy thriller that is as timely as it is terrifying.

    Star of the North by David John ($27.00*, Crown Publishing Group), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Furyborn by Claire Legrand

    Furyborn by Claire LegrandFuryborn is exactly the kind of ambitious, well-written YA high fantasy that I've been looking for. It's a novel that is female focused and driven, with girls who are strong, powerful, pissed off, damaged, unabashedly sexual and in control. The writing is so beautiful I found myself re-reading sentences simply for the pleasure of it. It's a story that is complex, compelling and carefully crafted. Claire Legrand is a jewel, I can't wait for the next installment.

    Furyborn by Claire Legrand ($18.99*, Sourcebooks Fire), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

    The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda WoodsThis book is delightful and will easily win readers over. If the story doesn't pull you in (which would be difficult), then the artwork will! It's a perfect match between storyteller and artist, full of whimsy, quirkiness, and heart.

    The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods (9780525515210*, Philomel Books), recommended by The Story Shop, Monroe, GA.

  • The Evolution of Love by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

    The Evolution of Love by Lucy Jane BledsoeFollowing the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, The Evolution of Love reads like a dystopian novel but paints an all-too-realistic picture of what challenges society might face in the midst of a devastating natural disaster. Lucy Jane Bledsoe brings together an unlikely group of characters fighting to meet basic needs--food, shelter, safety--while desperately trying to find themselves, their people, and their place in the world. Recommended for fans of Station Eleven.

    The Evolution of Love by Lucy Jane Bledsoe ($16.95*, Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

    The Ensemble by Aja GabelIt’s hard to imagine that music can have a texture, a taste—but in Aja Gabel’s debut novel The Ensemble, the particulars of performance and song infuse every aspect of the world she creates. This is the story of four friends in a string quartet who must balance their passion for music with their private lives and ambition. Gabel’s addictive prose incandesces on the page, and fans of The Interestings will find much to love here. 

    The Ensemble by Aja Gabel ($26.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, VA.

  • Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

    Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake It is my solemn wish that everyone pick up a copy of Girl Made of Stars. It's the sort of story that hurts to read sometimes, but ultimately leaves you full of hope. This novel is the perfect example of literature for young people that can and will give almost anyone a bit of perspective and birth or nurture compassion within them. This book is important. This book is compulsively readable and full of beauty. This book should be your next read.

    Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake ($17.99*, Houghton Mifflin), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

    Run, Hide, Fight Back by April HenryTense, terrifying and thrilling!  Teens find themselves in mortal danger when a shooting at the mall traps them together, and they must depend on one another to have any chance of survival  Some of these teens are hiding secrets, but then again, so are the terrorists who are holding them hostage. All too realistic considering the world we live in now, based on the question we all have asked ourselves: What would you do if you were in danger in a place you should have been safe?  Sometimes you run, sometimes you hide, and sometimes you fight back! 

    Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry ($17.99*, Henry Holt and Co.), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • Square by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

    Square by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (Illustrator)OMG! Can this pair get any cuter?!  When Square is put to the test of creating a circle, not only is he not able to do it, but without realizing it, he actually creates a reflection pool.  Circle's reaction will surprise and delight everyone who reads this wonderful story.

    Square by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (Illustrator) ($15.99*, Candlewick Press), recommended by Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA.

  • A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham Thornton

    A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham ThorntonWith more thought and more travel than the usual love story, A Theory of Love is the story of Helen and Christopher's romance and marriage and ultimately the understanding of how people understand love and learn to know what they need from a partner in a marriage. The exotic locales change but the marriage is wonderfully recognizable as the couple navigates their lives. 

    A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham Thornton ($27.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

    Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall Talk about a book for our times! Mike, our narrator, is one seriously messed-up guy pining over his lost Verity. But is he, or is it a game they are just playing? Lust and obsession: what a great combo. Probably the creepiest, most disturbing, novel I've read since the Gillian Flynn's out-of-this-world good Sharp Objects!

    Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall ($26.00*, MCD/Farrar Straus and Giroux), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

    A Lucky Man by Jamel BrinkleyI love this collection. In these stories, Brinkley turns his (male) gaze upon the male gaze itself. And what happens, necessarily, is a ripping of seams. It's extraordinary. Like an ouroboros effect, but one that feels like it's actually getting somewhere. Equally astonishing is the warmth in telling, wherein no honesty gets lost. About coming of age, family, friendship, masculinity (its pitfalls), Blackness in America, and growth. Oh, and the writing is absolutely stunning too. 

    A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley ($26.00*, Graywolf Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

    Beautiful Music by Michael ZadoorianI am such a huge fan of this book and this author. Beautiful Music, set in 1970s Detroit, is just what the title states. A young Danny Yzemski is growing up chunky kid with a love of pop radio and a turbulent home life. He starts his freshman year in a new school being confronted by racial tension issues previously he only experienced through the news and his mother's snide comments.  When a tragedy happens, Danny's mother becomes more and more obsessed with the world's cultural changes and tries to drive them out of her life with booze and pills. In this storm, Danny finds comfort in music. Like beautiful music, this book is permeated with the power to make you sad, lift you up, and carry you home.

    Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian ($16.95*, Akashic Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • The Pisces by Melissa Broder

    The Pisces by Melissa BroderA mix of weird, wacky, and whoa-did-that-just-happen? Lucy goes through a bad break up and ends up dog sitting for her sister in an LA beach house. Forced to attend a love addiction group therapy, Lucy's life is a constant see-saw of emotion. Jumping back into modern dating, she ends up in Tinder hookup hell, at a loss for what she wants and who she is. A nighttime stroll on the beach brings a new man into her life. But Theo is not the cool surfer bro she mistakes him for, and soon the "plenty of fish in the ocean" idiom has a lot deeper meaning for our love-struck Lucy. 

    The Pisces by Melissa Broder ($25.00*, Hogarth Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

    The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy It started out as a Mommy Group, fragile friendships in the making. They seem like typical modern day mothers, reading all they can and trying to follow all of the new trends and ideas in having a healthy baby and caring for a newborn. They have concerns, they have guilt, they have fear and they all have secrets. And then baby Midas is abducted and the lives of the women in the group are turned upside down. Too many past histories become lies, and then betrayals, as the women become too focused on finding this missing child while letting their personal lives fall apart. The author did an excellent job of misdirection and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. The Perfect Mother is a must for fans of Big Little Lies.

    The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy ($27.99*, Harper), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

    Be Prepared by Vera BrosgolSweet, nerdy, bitingly funny, and brimming with heart! I repeatedly saw my own young self and experiences in this well crafted memoir, and it reminded me to be kinder in my recollections--to myself and everyone else struggling through young adulthood.

    Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol ($12.99*, First Second), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Varina by Charles Frazier

    Varina by Charles FrazierIf you think there is nothing new or even useful left to be said about the Civil War, you need to read Varina. Frazier uses the real First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis, to tell the story of the war and its sad denouement. The broad outlines of the story are true: Mississippi-born Varina Howell married much-older Jefferson Davis after having been educated in Philadelphia. She never thought the South could win and secretly considered the war folly from the outset. In a scandalous show of indifference, she went home before the end of Davis’ inauguration ceremony. Once installed as the First Lady in what was known as the Grey House in Richmond, Varina rose to the occasion, helping with the war effort in various ways. As Richmond fell, she and her children fled, but were captured, along with Jefferson Davis. She spent time with the children in Savannah under house arrest, then at Fort Monroe in Maryland with her husband. She lived alone abroad, then with her husband near Biloxi, Mississippi until his death, then moved to New York City and wrote a regular column for the New York Times.

    Varina, as Frazier conceives her, is smart and bold, often using morphine to soften her edges. She was never quite what the South wanted her to be, nor was she keen to become so. After she loses her best friend, Mary Chestnut, she muses that you don’t get to choose who you outlive. And, indeed, she outlived all but one of her seven children, as well as her husband and, of course, the Confederacy itself. It is true that she took in a mulatto child during her time in Richmond, raising him alongside her own children for a time. “Jimmie” was one of the children who fled with her after the fall of Richmond. History doesn’t record what happened to him after he was separated from Varina in her capture and taken North. In Frazier’s re-telling, however, the adult Jimmie reads an account of Varina and her mulatto ward in a (very real) book called “First Days Among the Contrabands,” published in 1893. Based on hazy memories, he believes himself to be the Jimmie in the book. He visits Varina at a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY, where they are reunited. Their series of meetings grounds the book, which is told in flashback.

    If you enjoyed Cold Mountain, you must read Varina. Frazier’s virtuoso prose is infused with melancholy, but his Varina is surprisingly relatable, recognizable to anyone who’s felt powerless over a situation. The real Varina is said to have admitted that the South deserved to lose, and of course she was right. But this book asks us to understand, if not to forgive, and to move on. Faulkner famously wrote that “the past is never dead.” Varina attempts to put a stake through the heart of the Lost Cause.

    Varina by Charles Frazier ($27.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

    Disoriental by Negar DjavadiI devoured this book. Kimia's family history, and consequently the history of Iran, is given in tantalizing bits and pieces. It was fascinating, informative, and exceptionally well-written. I highly, highly recommend it!

    Disoriental by Négar Djavadi ($18.00*, Europa Editions), recommended by Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN.

  • Empire of Light by Michael Bible

    Empire of Light by Michael BibleA surprisingly gentle and innately melancholy tale of misfits and small towns and growing up. An incredibly humane novel packed into a slim page count. 

    Empire of Light by Michael Bible ($15.99*, Melville House Publishing), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld

    You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis SittenfeldThere is a certain feeling I have reading Curtis Sittenfeld's work, like I'm a little drunk and oversharing with someone who happens to be a great writer. These stories do not disappoint. Her characters are refreshingly unlikable, brash, imperfect, funny, and Sittenfeld is a genius at placing them in perfectly fraught situations; not physically dangerous, but challenging and deliciously complicated. What these stories have in common is that they all contain moments of thrilling transparency, when, for a brief, satisfying time, we are allowed to see these people (and all people) for who they truly are.

    You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Rusty The Squeaky Robot by Neill Clark

    Rusty The Squeaky Robot by Neill ClarkRusty is a squeaky robot who does not like his squeakiness. He begins a quest to find other robots on Planet Robotone that might be able to remedy his squeaks. Along the way, he finds four robots that make different sounds. Rusty and his new friends combine all their special sounds to create one jamming tune. Together, Rusty's new friends show him that being different is what makes him special.

    Rusty The Squeaky Robot by Neill Clark ($17.95*, Words & Pictures), recommended by Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA.

  • The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

    The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson HarveyI absolutely loved The Secret to Southern Charm. You do not have to have read the first book in this series to enjoy this fantastic book about four generations of females in a family coming together to move through love, life and loss at the beach. 

    The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey ($16.00*, Gallery Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

    Dread Nation by Justina IrelandThe War Between the Sates is put on hold as the dead begin to rise. Jane has been taken from the relative safety of her mother’s plantation home to start training as an Attendant at Miss Prescott’s School of Combat in Baltimore. The Native American and Negro Re-education Act holds that the minority youth be trained in weaponry and manners to serve as the protectors of the upper class white families across the eastern states. Jane is a smart, sassy and strong heroine that you will continue to root for as she faces true horrors of humanity far worse than the walking dead shamblers. This is an important coming of age story and conversation about slavery and the years that followed.

    Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ($17.99*, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Country Dark by Chris Offutt

    Country Dark by Chris OffuttCountry Dark is the story of Tucker and what happens to his life after he returns home from the Korean War to rural Kentucky. Wretchedly poor with limited resources, Tucker and his family suffer the consequences of a few poor decisions over the course of three decades. This novel marries a love story, backwoods crime gangs, and children born broken with the everyday struggles of those born into poverty.

    Country Dark by Chris Offutt ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

    Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker RhodesGhost Boys is a devastating novel. It will grieve you in the way our news cycle seems to be an unceasing parade of grief. But it is also hopeful, full of compassion, and a compelling case for the fact that "we can all do better, be better, live better." Jerome's story is heartbreaking, and the telling of it is necessary. Just as the telling of Emmett Till's story is necessary, though it so often goes untold. Rhodes has crafted a beautiful novel that will facilitate many conversations with young people; Ghost Boys is essential for the middle school classroom as well as for family discussion. This is a novel to be shared with children; read it with them, discuss it with them, together we can gain the tools we need in order to live better.

    Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes ($16.99*, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

    After Anna by Lisa ScottolineI knew from the first page that After Anna was going to be something really different. It starts with alternating excerpts from the trial of Noah who is accused of killing his stepdaughter Anna and the story of what happens before the murder told from the viewpoint of his wife. We know that Maggie reunites with her daughter Anna after giving up custody to her ex 17 years earlier. We know that less than 3 weeks later Anna is dead. We know that Noah swears he is innocent and still loves his wife, even though she kicked him out of the house and believed that he was abusing Anna. We know from Noah that Anna isn’t the sweet teenager that Maggie thinks she is.

    I couldn’t begin to imagine how this could turn into a story that I could be happy with. I felt for Noah and truly believed he was innocent, but I also understood why Maggie didn’t believe him. Never in a million years did I guess the turn of events that made this one of the best books I have read this year. Lisa Scottoline has truly outdone herself with this one.

    After Anna by Lisa Scottoline ($27.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

    Macbeth by Jo Nesbo The Hogarth Shakespeare series has been a mixed bag, so I was a bit hesitant when I picked up Macbeth. However, Nesbo did an excellent job of melding the theatre of Macbeth with the grittiness of a 70s drama--think Serpico on the Elizabethan stage. I devoured this book in two sittings; though the story is familiar, this book is an engrossing page turner.

    Macbeth by Jo Nesbo ($27.00*, Hogarth Press), recommended by The Oxford Exchange Bookstore, Tampa, FL. 

  • Space Opera by Cathrynne M. Valente

    Space Opera by Cathrynne M. ValenteI hadn't finished reading the first sentence of Space Opera before I knew I would love it, and it only got better from there. Hitchhiker's Guide meets Eurovision seemed like an impossible order, but Valente more than delivered.

    Valente is a true wordsmith, making paragraph-long sentences seem effortless, and bringing forth images I'd never considered and won't soon forget. I found myself sending entire pages to my friends, and I can't stop telling people about it. Sometimes silly and often strange, Space Opera was fascinating and wonderful the entire way through

    Space Opera by Cathrynne M. Valente ($19.99*, Saga Press), recommended by Quail Ridge Books , Raleigh, NC.

  • The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli

    The Perfume Burned His Eyes Michael ImperioliYes. It's That Guy From The Sopranos.

    If that's what makes you pick it up, fine. Just do it.

    Matthew, a 16-year-old boy living in Queens loses both his father and his grandfather. His mother uproots the now family of two to Manhattan. He starts an unlikely friendship with two tenants in his building: Lou Reed and his trans girlfriend Rachel. Lou becomes a quasi-shamanic father figure to the boy as he navigates his lonely path to becoming a man.

    Heartbreaking. Pure.

    If you walk away from having read this book without feeling the deepest empathy for teenagers and your own teenage self, you're just a stone, man. You can't be reached.

    The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli ( $25.95*, Akashic Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Tangerine by Catherine Managan

    Tangerine by Christine ManaganIn the beginning I wasn't sure what Tangerine was trying to be--a Gothic thriller like Rebecca? a symphony of unreliable narrator voices, like in the TV drama The Affair? a love triangle?

    As I read on, I decided that it reminded me of nothing more than The Talented Mr. Ripley. Maybe in its setting: a hot, tropical place like Tangier, where expat Americans and Brits love to feel free of all constraints and even laws. In its voice, too, though instead of being narrated entirely by Ripley, Tangerine takes turns between the voices of its two heroines. Both are flawed and both are entirely relatable, up to a point. Take nothing for granted in this debut that is much more than the sum of its influences.

    Tangerine by Christine Managan ($26.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

    The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerI never could have anticipated this book, and now I can't imagine a world without it, especially for this moment in American history. The Female Persuasion follows the ambitious but shy Greer Kadetsky, her boyfriend, her best friend, and the feminist icon who launches her into the world. Through these vivid, complex, and lovable characters, Wolitzer explores both the principle and reality of feminism as well as the desire to become our fullest selves and the twists and turns that journey can take.

    My heart raced reading this book, and I never wanted it to end. The Female Persuasion is powerful, generous, smart, and deeply kind; I can’t wait for the world to meet it.

    The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer ($28.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

    The Italian Party by Christina LynchThis funny, historical, spy novel takes place in 1950's Italian countryside and gives you a front row seat to what Italy was like after WWII. Thoroughly enjoyable!

    The Italian Party by Christina Lynch ($25.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon So many questions have always surrounded Tsarina Anastasia. I think we all secretly wanted this young princess to be alive. This novel moves you and makes you block out the noise around as you step back in time and witness the young girl and the penniless older woman who claimed to be the only survivor of the Romanovs. Such passion about the subject comes through and makes you wonder and believe.

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon ($26.95*, Doubleday Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Bad Seeds by Jassy MacKenzie

    Bad Seeds by Jassy MacKenzieIf you like stories set in South Africa well you need to check out Jassy MacKenzie. This contemporary series casts a gimlet eye on a society of such disconcerting contradictory opposites that I'd rather travel there vicariously than go in person. Good stuff!

    Bad Seeds by Jassy MacKenzie ($15.95*, Soho Crime), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

    Hello Hello by Brendan WenzelThis little gem of a picture book is as beautiful as it is multifaceted--it shines as a fun read aloud for toddlers and as a jumping-off point for older kids to research animals and conservation (the back matter is not to be missed!). Wenzel expertly imbues each animal with its own personality, and the page turns are perfectly paced and delightfully interwoven. Hello Hello is a must-have for any animal lover's shelf!

    Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel ($17.99*, Chronicle Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate, Courtney Cole

    Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate, Courtney Cole This is a dark book about the impact of a traumatic event in childhood and how it can haunt your life in many ways. Corrine and Jude have the perfect relationship. Great home, both physicians with great jobs. The facade is marred by Corrine's past and Jude's inability to communicate his feelings. Jude's twin is a Catholic priest and very close to the couple. A seemingly innocent introduction sends this relationship careening off the rails in manners that are hard to imagine. It is hard to resist skipping ahead to see how it ends.

    Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate, Courtney Cole ($15.99*, Mira Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor BrownTo read the work of Taylor Brown is to be given the capacity to enter any world his writing fearlessly creates. He is a wellspring of lyrical beauty.

    Gods of Howl Mountain carried me deep into the mountains of NC, post-Korean War, where moonshine ran like it sprang from the earth, where the embryonic seeds for NASCAR were being sown by moonshine runners in souped up cars, and where the people took care of their own, whether by home remedies gifted from the mountains or by brutality and revenge.

    The characters are unforgettable and remained with me long after closing the book. They are toughened by life, hopeful, and endearing—survivors all. Brown was able to brilliantly infuse humor and light into this gritty tale. Rory Docherty has returned from the war, leaving a leg in exchange for the horrors he can’t forget. His beautiful mother is a resident at Dorothea Dix Hospital, muted by a heinous act of violence, leaving Rory to be raised the inimitable Granny May. This diminutive force is his maternal grandmother; former prostitute turned healer, drawing from the folk knowledge that the mountains take care of their own. Rory’s livelihood options are limited, so he turns to running moonshine, chased by revenuers, lawmen, competing runners, and his own demons. There are questions from the past to be answered, grudges to bear, and redemption to be found.

    I lifted my head from this extraordinary novel in the wee hours of the morning, stunned by the time passed and grateful for the opportunity to read such a literary gift. A vision from the novel that haunts me is that of a lone surviving chestnut tree in front of Granny May’s cabin, branches filled with empty bottles to capture evil spirits and protect the home. The mountains are filled with spirits, good and evil. Gods of Howl Mountain captures those spirits like that lone bottle tree within its pages.

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

    Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles This is an extraordinary tale of a paralyzed veteran who is gifted (or cursed) with a miracle, the storm that surrounds him in the aftermath, and the meaning of faith. This book has ruined me. It was so good I didn’t want to read anything else. I was in a funk for days after finishing it knowing that nothing else would measure up. I laughed until I cried. Then I wept with sorrow until I couldn’t read the pages. I fell in love with every busted up character in this book and the town of Biloxi, Mississippi. This is a loving portrait of present day America: imperfect, ridiculous, dangerous, yet still inspiring. I don’t know what I have to do to get you to read this book, but I ain’t too proud to beg. 

    Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles ($27.00*, Hogarth Press), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan HollinghurstThe Sparsholt Affair is a novel about time and memory. As you read each section, you see how time has changed England and these characters. Hollinghurst is so good at moments, I found myself slowing down so I wouldn't miss anything. Somehow, he's attuned to the frequencies of human interaction invisible to most writers. Such a pleasure to read.

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst ($28.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto UrreaThis book is beautiful in its writing, voice, and sadness. His books continue to get better with each new one. I am excited to hand this over to our customers who are already fans of his and I'm looking forward to creating new fans of Urrea through this book. 

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea ($27.00*, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson

    Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. WilsonFrom the author or Robopocalypse and A Clockwork Dynasty, a collection of futuristic short stories that would feel at home as episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix. A great balance of stories, there wasn't a single one I didn't like. Full of melancholy, dread, thrilling action, quiet loveliness, emotion, and of course, lots of robots, there's something here for every kind of science fiction fan. Highly recommended!

    Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson ($16.00*, Viking), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi Zelie is a girl with magic in her blood, in a land where magic has been destroyed and outlawed by the cruel king. When she accidentally rescues the princess and the prince/captain of the guard comes after her, Zelie goes on the run with her brother and the princess, discovering that she has been chosen by the gods to bring magic back to the world. But before she can defeat the king and save her people, Zelie must face her own powers and what this mission might cost her and the people she loves. With rich world building and fantastic mythology, readers of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy will love this book.

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi ($18.99*, Henry Hollt & Company), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Magic Garden by Lemniscates

    The Magic Garden by Lemniscates You will enjoy this brightly illustrated tour through Chloe's magic garden. Throughout your journey, you will learn amazing nature facts such as, how caterpillars turn into butterflies, why animals camouflage themselves, and how birds weave a nest. A delightfully educational stroll through nature perfect for young backyard explorers.

    The Magic Garden by Lemniscates ($16.95*, Ward Foster, Jr.), recommended by Octavia Books.

  • Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

    Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-SmithA page-turner that hits on universal and topical themes. Cross-Smith has serious storytelling talent. A must read for 2018.

    Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith ($27.00*, Hub City PRess), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Unplugged by Steve Antony

    Unplugged by Steve AntonyBlip is a robot who spends her days plugged into her computer. Due to a power outage, she trips over the cord and falls outside. As Blip ventures into the unknown, she discovers a vibrant world of color and friendship has been just outside her door this whole time. Blip may love being plugged into her computer, but she learns that going outside is way more exciting.

    Unplugged by Steve Antony ($16.99*, Scholastic Press), recommended by Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA.

  • People Like Us by Dana Mele

    People Like Us by Dana MeleFrom page one, this book draws the reader. Prep schools, a dead body, main characters with secrets, grumpy detectives, unrequited love and emailed blackmail from the aforementioned dead body- and that's all just in the first few chapters. Kay might be a scholarship student, but she's also a queen bee, desperate for a soccer scholarship and even more desperate to keep her secrets. As she uncovers the mysteries of a dead girl, she also unveils secrets of the people she thought she knew best, people just like us. A thrilling page turner!

    People Like Us by Dana Mele ($17.99*, G.P. Putnam's Sons for Young Readers), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Hush by John Hart

    The Hush by John HartOh yeah, John, you have a winner here! The Hush continues the story of Johnny Merriman that began in The Last Child. Now, 12 years later, he's trying to save the land he has inherited and strange things are occurring. A bit of a change of pace from his previous books, The Hush kept me up all might and I can't wait to talk to people about it.

    The Hush by John Hart ($27.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Promise by Minrose Gwin

    Promise by Minrose GwinWhen a tornado of epic proportions ruins the town of Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, the death toll was steep. But when we discover that the deaths in the black community were NEVER counted, well, that takes this novel based on a true story, totally to a much higher level. This book is bound to be a book club favorite. It's got everything a club needs for discussion. And, the fact that this actually happened, is incredibly noteworthy as well as tragic. With characters that jump and leap from the page, PROMISE promises to keep you reading far into the night. I loved this story.

    I could not put this book down. I felt like I was trapped in the tornado, wandering through the devastated streets and blown apart buildings, feeling the chaos and brokenness. In the midst of it all, I could also feel the strength and determination of in the midst of Dovey and Jo, and experience their humanity, honesty, obstinance and kindness. With all the fires, hurricanes and floods we’ve had around the country recently, along with racial tensions, this story, though set in 1936, speaks loudly to us today.

    Promise by Minrose Gwin ($25.99, William Morrow), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen

    The Sea Beast Takes a Lover Michael AndreasenMasterfully combining otherworldly magic and mystery with ordinary awkwardness and unease, Andreasen tells us stories of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, sea beasts and lovers as if they were our own fantastic lives.

    The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen ($25.00*, Dutton Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

    The Rabbit Listened by Cori DoerrfeldI'm envisioning putting this book on display with a sign saying, "Need a Thinking of You card? Give this book instead..."

    The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld ($17.99*, Delacorte Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

    The Wedding Date by Jasmine GuilloryThe Wedding Date is a fun read featuring two adults who throw caution to the wind for a fun weekend but then have to navigate their budding romance while balancing professional lives in separate cities. Skip Valentine's Day and stay home with this book instead!

    The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory ($15.00*, Berkley Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

    Blood Sisters by Jane CorryBlood Sisters opens with a radio announcement that a murder has occurred at a men’s prison, with details to come. Allison is leading a lonely single life barely making ends meet teaching art lessons when she sees an advertisement for a job teaching art in a men’s prison takes the job. She is guilt ridden and unhappy and we slowly discover why as the story of Allison and her younger half-sister Kitty is told in flashbacks from two points of view.

    Blood Sisters is a sad story of sibling rivalry, parents who don’t always do the right thing, teen violence, and a childish prank all of which probably contributed to the tragedy which occurred when Kitty was 11 and Allison was a senior in high school, and which kept Allison so filled with guilt. We think we know what happened 15 years ago, and we think we know what just happened at the prison. But, as the story is slowly revealed we find that truths and lies become totally intertwined and what really happened both at the time of the accident and in the present at the prison is a total surprise.

    Blood Sisters by Jane Corry ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan

    This Is Memorial Device by David KeenanAs if Bolaño was obsessed with post-punk, This is Memorial Device is a journey through a music scene that could've been and never was, as seen through a lens of memory and innate sadness.

    This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan ($16.00*, Faber & Faber Social), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns, Barbara Fisinger (Illustrator)

    Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans Russell Ginns, Barbara Fisinger (Illustrator)Samantha Spinner feels slightly slighted when from her (now missing) uncle, her sister receives $2,400,000,000; her brother is given the New York Yankees; and all Samantha gets is a ratty, rusty, red umbrella. But when the umbrella is revealed to contain a map with secret passageways throughout the entire world, Samantha feels very, very lucky indeed.

    Clever, smart and sometimes even a bit silly, this fun mystery from game designer Russell Ginns also includes a few extra secrets for the especially inquisitive mind.

    Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns, Barbara Fisinger (Illustrator) ($16.99*, Delacorte Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Look for Her by Emily Winslow

    Look for Her by Emily WinslowA beautiful young girl disappears on her way to school. Years later her body is found but the murderer is never caught. Morris Kaufmann is now a cold case inspector and when DNA is finally recovered from the clothes of the young girl he thinks he is well on his way to making a huge name for himself, as the abduction and murder of Annalise Wood received much notoriety at the time of the abduction and years later when the body was found. He seeks help from his old partner, Chloe, and they soon discover that the one thing they thought they knew – that the body was that of Annalise - is now in question. Look For Her is a terrific psychological thriller with many twists and turns. The sensationalization of the abduction and murder affected many people as did the lies told by those close to Annaliese. It is up to Morris and Chloe to figure out who was buried in Annalise’s clothes and who murdered her, and how two unrelated patients of a local psychiatrist, both of whom were obsessed with Annalise, might be involved in the case.

    Look for Her by Emily Winslow ($15.99*, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

    The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery MartinThis book is perfect for fans of medical dramas, romance, and intrigue. Gray’s Anatomy fans, get ready!

    The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin ($26.00*, Berkley Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

    Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-ZecherThis devastating, beautifully wrought story reminds us that the mentality of Us vs Them can only end badly for both. Make any effort to get to know Them, and We realize that They are just like Us. They are Us with different clothes, accents, hair, skin. I am also reminded that a love story isn’t any good unless it breaks your heart.

    Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher ($26.00*, Atria Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    The Woman in White by Wilkie CollinsAnother classic I'd never read! Although The Woman in White received mixed reviews when it was published in the mid-19th century, it was an immediate hit with the reading public. I can see why. For one thing, Wilkie Collins is a master of the cliffhanger: I lost count of how many there were throughout the book, and each was put to excellent use. For another, he draws wonderful characters, making them beautifully (and horribly) specific, and thus, hard to forget. I admit that I had little patience with Laura Fairlee, the book's angelic ingenue, who seems always on the verge of fainting, but I recognize that she is a contrivance of the age in which the novel was written, and the other characters are all so deliciously wrought that it seems unfair to quibble over Laura's "girly" characteristics.

    The Woman in White is not only a mystery but a true thriller, and it was said at the time that Collins had written "something completely new." It's not often that I am moved as I was when reading this novel: in fear, anticipation, sadness, and excitement. Ultimately, Collins is simply a marvelous storyteller. Aspiring writers can learn much about how to engage readers' interests and emotions effectively; readers will find a novel that they can completely and gladly lose themselves in. And isn't that something we all want and need from time to time?

    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ($12.99*, MacMillan Collector's Library), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani A huge best-seller in France, The Perfect Nanny packs a punch that its brief length belies. It addresses issues both topical and enduring through the lens of the relationship of a young professional Parisian couple and the caregiver they hire for their two young children when the mother has a chance to return to work.

    The shock of the novel's chilling first sentence, "The baby is dead," is elegantly balanced by the complex issues Slimani addresses: our expectations of mothers' responsibilities, our connection to the people we employ, our view of immigrants, and the ways in which how see ourselves differs from the realities of who we really are.

    This is a striking, powerful novel that, rightly, leaves us with more questions than answers. It's a book that doesn't let go easily, and as a reader, I was the better for that.

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani ($16.00*, Penguin Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • Marabel and the Book of Fate by Tracy Barrett

    Marabel and the Book of Fate by Tracy BarrettMarabel's twin brother, Marco, is the Chosen One, prophesied by the Book of Fate to save the kingdom of Magikos. For Marabel, that means always being in Marco's shadow. But when an evil queen kidnaps Marco on their very important 13th birthday, Marabel knows that she has to rescue her brother if no one else will. With help from her best friend and a talking unicorn, Marabel treks across kingdoms to find her brother, a journey that teaches her about friendship and fate, good and evil, and that sometimes a different perspective can help you save the day. For fans of humorous fairy tale classics like Ella Enchanted, and for anyone who is tired of waiting around for their day in the sun.

    Marabel and the Book of Fate by Tracy Barrett ($16.99*, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell

    Dreaming in Chocolate Susan Bishop CrispellCharming and hopeful. Once again Susan Bishop Crispell combines culinary wonder and a touch of magic for a delightful book perfect for cozy winter reading!

    Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell ($15.99*, St. Martin's Griffin), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

    An American Marriage by Tayari JonesI 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.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

    The Great Alone by Kristin HannahIn The Great Alone, Kristen Hannah captures both the breathtaking beauty and brutal harshness of Alaska. The Allbright family escapes to the state to hopefully banish inner demons and get a fresh start. They are totally unprepared for the starkness, danger and isolation of their new home. Daughter Leni comes of age in this environment and comes to fall in love with the Alaskan wilderness. This book is another sure winner for Hannah!

    The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ($28.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

    Behind Her Eyes by Sarah PinboroughThis was a big staff favorite last year. Nearly the whole staff read it! Great to be able to sell it in paperback this season. David and Adele seem like a perfect couple but when Louise, David's secretary, starts looking at their relationship harder, secrets begin to emerge. Everything you want in a thriller with a twist at the end. You'll get the hashtag associated with the release #WTFThatEnding! Oh. And it doesn't have "Girl" in the title. Bonus!

    Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough ($15.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk

    Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk Attia is the last of her warrior people after the Romans conquered her land. Now she's a slave, given to Xanthus, a champion gladiator, as a reward for his victories in the arena. Attia has vowed to fight the Romans until she gains her freedom or dies trying, but she doesn't count on Xanthus, a fellow slave, treating her with such care and gentleness. As the two form a relationship that goes beyond their shared bonds, Attia finds herself fighting for Xanthus as much as herself. This book will appeal to fans of strong, fierce female characters, and though there's no magic, fantasy fans will have much to love in the world of the ancient Romans.

    Blood and Sand by C. V. Wyk ($17.99*, Tor Teen), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Penguins Don't Wear Sweaters! by Marikka Tamura, Daniel Rieley

    Penguins Don't Wear Sweaters! by Marikka Tamura, Daniel RieleyAs adorable as it is a poignant signpost for kids and adults that the taking care of the planet and its inhabitants seems sometimes far-fetched and near impossible, but worthwhile because of imagination and effort.

    Penguins Don't Wear Sweaters! by Marikka Tamura, Daniel Rieley ($16.99*, Nancy Paulsen Books), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman

    The Power by Naomi AldermanMy mind is all kinds of messed up from this book, a very disturbing, thrilling, and thought-provoking meditation on power, gender, religion, and history, plus super morally ambiguous and compelling characters. This one is for all Margaret Atwood fans and anyone who loves a speculative or science fiction story that pushes their buttons and makes them think!

    The Power by Naomi Alderman ($26.00*, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Hills & Hamlet Bookshop, Chattahoochee Hills, GA.

  • Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

    Need to Know by Karen ClevelandClear your calendar because you won't want to do anything until you finish this book! This was intense without being over the top - fans of espionage thrillers are going to love it!

    Need to Know by Karen Cleveland ($26.00*, Ballantine Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

    About That Kiss by Jill ShalvisThere's definitely something About That Kiss! With her usual flair for romance and laughter, Jill Shalvis serves up a great addition to her Heartbreaker Bay series. Kylie might be more comfortable crafting furniture than kissing sexy ladie's man Joe, but the sparks fly between them when she needs his help on a personal level. Favorite couples from the previous books add levels of warmth and wit, but there's no wrong way to read this series--start at the beginning or dive right into book four--either way you won't regret!

    About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis ($7.99*, Avon Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

    The Immortalists by Chloe BenjaminFrom Lemuria Books blog:
    "The year is 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side and the Gold siblings have heard rumors of a mystical psychic living in their area. This rumored gypsy-lady claims to be able to tell anyone the exact date that they will die. The siblings, all under the age of thirteen, decide to visit the woman together and then–one at a time–learn the exact date of their death. Such is the setup for Chloe Benjamin’s new novel, The Immortalists [...]Each story holds your attention, even though you know the outcome. It’s almost impossible to not become emotionally invested in each sibling. Benjamin has written a rich and thought provoking novel on the nature of believing. How does learning when you will die, even if it could be untrue, determine how you live your life in the present? Is our time of death predetermined, or can we play a part in changing our destiny? This fascinating read leaves you dreaming for long afterward."

    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

    Three Daughters of Eve by Elif ShafakShafak crafts a novel that is highly philosophical and entertaining. There are themes that speak to world politics and feel so right in their timing as well as timeless questions about God and love. A propulsive read that will leave you wanting more of Shafak's skill with language.

    Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak ($27.00*, Bloomsbury USA), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

    Thunderhead by Neal ShustermanThunderhead is a rare sequel that is even better than its predecessor. Shusterman has an incredible ability to subvert all expectations, and even when I thought I knew what would happen, a new twist would turn my perception on its head! Rowan and Citra both stayed true to their characters, which is difficult to do in a dystopian world. I loved every minute and will be putting this duology into every hand I can!

    Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman ($18.99*, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Edie Is Ever So Helpful by Sophy Henn

    Edie Is Ever So Helpful by Sophy HennBritish author and illustrator Sophy Henn's charming story of Edie's verve may touch a chord in your household. EDIE is VERY helpful decorating the walls, the dog, and even her sleeping grandpa? Sometimes even Edie knows she needs reining in a bit. This is the perfect book for those "Betty Bunny" and "Fancy Nancy" devotees.

    Edie Is Ever So Helpful by Sophy Henn ($16.99*, Philomel Books), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

    Gnomon by Nick HarkawayThis extreme mind-bender is going to appeal hugely to those that love David Mitchell's puzzle box structure in Cloud Atlas, the paranoid/philosophical reality shifts of Philip K. Dick, the encyclopedic adventurousness of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Baroque Cycle, William Gibson's razor-edged futuristic social dread, and perhaps even more so the epic literary tapestries of Thomas Pynchon, Wallace's Infinite Jest, and DeLillo's Underworld. Harkaway paints a cautionary future, an uncertain present, and a bloody past, all together in one hallucinatory mindscape of incredible storytelling bravura!

    Gnomon by Nick Harkaway ($28.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, KY.

  • The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

    The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

    Although I'm not a big fan of Hollywood, this story about Mary Pickford and her best friend Frances Marian quickly drew me in and kept me turning the pages. 

    Benjamin knows how to flesh out her characters.  I kept wanting to know more about Mary and Frances. And even Douglas Fairbanks.  Such interesting people. I knew nothing about the events that came crashing down on these silent film stars when the movies went to "talkies." Just never gave it a thought. But how devastating. Such a long fall from grace. 

    How timely this powerful novel is with all the horrific news of the casting couch in this decade. And look how long it's been going on. 

    Written with a loving hand and a knowing mind, Benjamin has once again knocked it out of the park with The Girls in the Picture.

    The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin ($28.00*, Delacorte Press), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

    Mrs. Caliban by Rachel IngallsA reissue, first published in 1983, this is the surprisingly moving story of an unhappy suburban housewife who harbors, and loves, a six-foot-seven frog-faced creature who has just escaped from a research lab.

    None other than John Updike had this to say about the novel: “So deft and austere in its prose, so drolly casual in its fantasy, but opening up into a deep female sadness that makes us stare. An impeccable parable, beautifully written from first paragraph to last."

    Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls ($13.95*, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

    TITLEI'm presently gobsmacked by and head-over-heels in love with Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon, a gorgeous, searing first novel that takes on themes of grace, God, desire, truth, and family. Told in an array of tenses and forms that range from poetry to email (and everything in between), Fire Sermon takes great risks stylistically, as well as topically, and leaves nothing stable in its wake. It is unsparing and uncompromising; it is singular; it is innervating and strong; and it is a deeply, wonderfully stirring work of art.

    Fire Sermon is a force. With the power of a sacred text, and the intimacy of a confession, Jamie Quatro lays bare marriage, sex, art, parenthood, everything. I am in awe of this book.

    Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

    The Afterlives by Thomas PierceJim Byrd is not really obsessed with death, mortality, and ghosts, but after a peculiar health scare, he can't avoid them. From cryonics to psychic mediums, he seems haplessly fated to encounter the full range of mortality cures. Central among them--and deservedly central in this book--is a staircase at the back of an old house where supernatural physics seem to be in control. As a mini-prologue to each chapter, Pierce lays out a montage of events in the life of previous residents and their families. At first these vignettes seem to support a little ghost story. But by the end, they resolve brilliantly into a poignant comment on Jim's misadventures, and what at first was a story concentrated on death and the hereafter satisfyingly becomes a novel about the ephemeral fragility of life itself.

    The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Turnrow Books, Greenwood, MS.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard

    Spy of the First Person by Sam ShepardA beautiful, haunting and poetic little book, at times playful and innately tragic. The perfect coda to Shepherd's career.

    Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard ($18.00*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Alone by Cyn Balog

    Alone by Cyn BalogDespite 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.

  • Everless by Sara Holland

    Everless by Sara HollandFirst in a new series! People pay for everything with their time (days, months, years) which is extracted from their blood and transformed to coins. The royalty lives for centuries while the common folk are taxed and punished with their lifeblood.

    Everless by Sara Holland ($17.99*, Harper Teen), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

    Robicheaux by James Lee Burke James Lee Burke for the Nobel Prize! Why not? The award goes to a writer for a body of work that is singular to the psyche and culture of that author's nation. As the U.S. is, arguably, the most violent nation on earth with more guns per capita than the majority of the world combined why not a nod to the man who explores our violent nature better then anyone else? Robicheaux is a perfect example of his skill and grace relating a difficult and often sordid subject. The man can flat out write.

    Robicheaux by James Lee Burke ($27.99*, Simon & Schuster), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • The Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner

    The Pink Hat by Andrew JoynerThe story of a hat that is just a hat until it becomes a symbol of unity across the world.

    The Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner ($17.99*, Schwartz & Wade Books), recommended by Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA.

  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

    The Nowhere Girls by Amy ReedI loved this book!! So important. Please read it and share it with girl and boy teens and the people who care about them. I wish we had heard more from Amber. Maybe in a future book? There aren't many books out there about teens trying to change the culture of their schools and their communities through peaceful activism. The Nowhere Girls tells it like it is. Some of it is clumsy. Sometimes it doesn't work or takes a while to get off the ground. But it is always worth trying. I really did love this book.

    The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed ($17.99*, Simon Pulse), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead

    The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip SteadWhy is The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine my favorite fiction book this year? In publishing, it is not too rare for a well-known author’s work to be found and published posthumously. However, in the case of this book, Phil and Erin Stead managed to take sixteen pages of notes from a bedtime story that Mark Twain told his daughters, and turn it into a true literary masterpiece over a century later. Phil holds a conversation with the ghost of Mark Twain (which is hilarious) and Erin’s illustrations are airy and lovely, as always. They truly breathe life into the story. So what’s the right age for this book? I’d say somewhere from 6 to 96. There are a handful of times where I walk out of the store, a book under my arm, and race home to read it. Not only did I do that, but I felt somehow as if I was reading a lost masterpiece of children’s literature. There’s only one time I’ve had that experience, and it was with The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine.

    The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead ($24.99*, Doubleday Books for Young Readers), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

    Rich and Pretty by Rumaan AlamRich and Pretty reads like a romance between two friends, exploring the ups and downs that occur in any long friendship. Since they were eleven, Lauren and Sarah have been best friends, and now in their thirties, Sarah is getting married and their relationship will evolve once again. Alam gets the little things right, building and surveying their relationship perfect detail by perfect detail, including their lives and secrets separate from one another. By the end, we know these two women as individuals, as a unit, and feel lucky to have seen their friendship in all its iterations and, truly, its beauty.

    Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam ($25.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise WolasThis is the kind of book that changes the reader alongside the change of the characters. I felt the coin drop just as the characters did and marveled at the skill displayed on each page by Wolas. This is a feminist novel through and through--one that fits the time we are in now--but this is all subtext. The story and the characters are why I couldn't bear to put this down until I followed it through to the end.

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas ($27.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

    Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica TownsendSuch a wonderful book. For a few days after I finished it, I actually missed reading it - where's my daily dose of Morrigan Crow? I hear that the author has a 9 book cycle planned, and my most fervent wish is that by the time it's over, it would be just as famous as Harry potter.

    Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend ($17.99*, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.

  • Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

    Foolish Hearts by Emma MillsClaudia tends to keep to herself at school, only coming out of her shell at home with her best -- pretty much only -- friend. When a series of events conspire to throw Claudia together with the resident mean girl, Iris, they end up having to participate in the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's not all bad, though, as Claudia and Iris start to become friends, and a cute boy shows interest in Claudia. But Claudia has to learn to navigate her relationships -- new and old, with siblings, friends, and romantic interests -- which is not as easy as it seems like it should be. Claudia's extreme snark had me laughing out loud, and the poignancy of her friendships had me wiping away a stray tear or two. Emma Mills remains one of my favorite contemporary authors.

    Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills ($17.99*, Henry Holt & Company), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’NeillTwo orphans with artistic souls survive poverty in Montreal during the Great Depression. Separated as teenagers, they spiral into a dark underworld but are eventually reunited to revisit a shared childhood dream. I was enchanted by this novel from the moment I started it. O’Neill’s writing is whimsical and haunting — the most cinematic reading experience I’ve had in a long while.

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria

    The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De MariaThis haunting and surreal novel, though a cult favorite in its native Italy, has been generally unknown to American readers since its publication in 1977. Written at a time of rampant right- and left-wing terrorism, the story follows an investigator as he tries to reconstruct a twenty-day period of mass insomnia in which the inflicted are attacked and murdered by giant, unseen entities. Far too much satire and subtext to mention here. Presented in English for the first time by translator Roman Glazov.

    The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria ($24.95*, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

    Chasing Christmas Eve: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel by Jill ShalvisIt's never too soon for a Christmas romance, and Shalvis is my favorite author for sexy romance and holiday magic. I love the characters of Heartbreaker Bay, and YA author Colbie was a perfect fit for the sexy and nerdy Spence. From their first meet cute to their first...well, you know, I was entranced with their story. Throw in a sassy cat, meddling friends, and crazy family members, and you have a book that's better than any Hallmark Christmas movie ever!

    Chasing Christmas Eve: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel by Jill Shalvis ($7.99*, Avon Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.