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!


  • A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

    A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren SumaCatherine House is a place for girls who need to escape, but the house holds its own dark secrets. When a bruised and brokenhearted Bina arrives at the house, she is seeking both refuge and reconciliation. Years ago her own mother harbored behind these same walls, and Bina desperately wants her mother to chase after her and choose her. Haunted, dark, lovely magical realism!

    A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma ($18.95*, Algonquin Young Readers), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • The Wildlands by Abby Geni

    The Wildlands by Abby GeniEngrossing and so smart and introspective. Somehow, Abby Geni does it all. Her language is gorgeous, and the relationships she builds between the McCloud siblings and how they relate to the world felt so real. I just fell into the story and couldn't put down this tense and heartbreaking novel.

    The Wildlands by Abby Geni ($26.00*, Counterpoint LLC), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

    The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie HannahWhen you love a classic series, it is hard sometimes to read a contemporary writer who, like Sophie Hannah, is continuing the story in present day. However, I have loved each one she has done and this is my favorite yet. Honestly, while reading this book, I forgot that Agatha Christie didn't write it. The story is exactly what you would expect from Christie and Hannah handles the voice and character of Poirot expertly. A well done addition to the canon.

    The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah ($27.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah Wiles

    A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah WilesCake by name and cake by vocation, the Cake family roll into Halleluia, Mississippi, to open a bakery. Dad Leo Meyer Lemon Cake comes from a long line of traveling merchants bringing baked goods like sweet religion to towns across the country, and he feels led to set up shop in the quirky town populated with beloved and familiar residents from other Halleluia-set novels like Ruby Lavender and House Jackson and the mysterious now-departed Mr. Norwood Boyd. Six cake-named children, their industrious father, and mother Arlouin Hummingbird Spice Cake find a town to serve and friends enough to make them plant their floury hands and want to stay forever.

    Role models for readers, Emma Alabama Lane Cake and Ben Lord Baltimore Cake, tell us that we all need a community to serve and nourish and, in turn, to receive nourishment, however imperfect--like coming home.

    A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah Wiles ($17.99*, Scholastic Press), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

    Trust Me by Hank Phillippi RyanRiveting and spellbinding, this brilliantly written thriller takes us into the hearts of two grieving mothers…one innocent; the other…well! I’ll let you determine that after you read this captivating story. Lots of twists and turns, and a good surprise ending that will keep you turning pages.

    Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan ($25.99*, Forge Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

    Sweet Little Lies by Caz FrearA woman’s body is found strangled in a garden in London. When the victim’s identity is discovered it throws Detective Catrina Kinsella’s life into a nightmare that she couldn’t have imagined.  The victim, as it turned out, was actually someone that Cat had once known. She was someone who had disappeared from Ireland years earlier and was never seen again. While on vacation in Ireland with her family when she was 8, she witnessed her father give the then young girl a ride. Later when the girl disappeared, Cat heard her father lie to the police about ever knowing her. Now, years later the woman’s body is found not far from where her father now lives and works in London. Was it coincidence or something far more sinister?

    Cat is flawed, she’s sassy-mouthed, she’s complex and deep-down, and she’s compassionate. But most of all she believes people should have to pay for their crimes. Sweet Little Lies is a debut mystery that really delivers. It is a dark story with a touch of humor and a wonderfully developed character who I would love to see again. 

    Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear ($26.99*, Harper), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

    Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-RansomeHistorical fiction at its finest. Langston longs for his beloved mother and his home in Alabama. But his mother has passed away and his father has moved him to Chicago. Langston struggles both being the new boy in class and with his father who is suffering silently. His discovery of the local library and the books of poetry by a man who shares his name opens a world of discovery that forges new friendships, reveals secrets, and helps his family heal.  

    Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome ($16.99*, Holiday House), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

  • Surviving Adam Meade Shannon Klare

    Surviving Adam Meade Shannon KlarePerfect for fans of Friday Night Lights and romance! Claire is the coach's daughter, and after rough break up with her football playing first love and a move to a new town, Claire has sworn off dating, especially athletes. Enter Adam Meade, who has a lot more going on than the popular jock image he portrays. Sparks fly between Claire and Adam, and despite her best intentions, Claire can't seem to resist the boy she most wanted to avoid.  Cute and sweet, but the MVP award goes to Adam's adorable grandma! 

    Surviving Adam Meade Shannon Klare ($16.99*, Swoon Reads), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensA most amazing story, wonderfully and beautifully written about a child abandoned at an early age who learns to survive in the marsh land on the coast of North Carolina. An epic story of her life, of finding love, of betrayal, and of murder. You’ll shed a few tears as you read...some of such sadness, a few of pure joy. I didn’t want this book to end.

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Line That Held Us by David Joy

    The Line That Held Us by David JoyWith the Southern grit of Daniel Woodrell and the rich Appalachian cadence of Ron Rash, David Joy is the new voice of Southern noir. In The Line That Held Us, Joy drags the reader by the gut on a dark and twisted journey of violence and vengeance in a story that will not be soon forgotten. 

    The Line That Held Us by David Joy ($27.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

    The Masterpiece by Fiona DavisLoved this story! Lost myself in two worlds that Davis created.  I became very attached to the characters and hated for the story to end. Along the way Davis teaches us about a lost art school in Grand Central Terminal in New York,and early artists, especially, Clara Darden, a prominent illustrator during the Great Depression.  A fascinating look at history and the struggle to save Grand Central as a national historic monument. And there’s a little mystery which is compelling. Read this in one sitting!

    The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis ($26.00*, Dutton Books), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • The Distance Home by Paula Saunders

    The Distance Home by Paula SaundersThe Distance Home is a novel of oppositions. Set in a South Dakota landscape at once stark and beautiful, Paula Saunders introduces a family full of meanness and cruelty, but also crushing, miraculous love. These characters, this story, these sentences transcend the typical family drama, as Saunders shows us a world where hate and love are made of the same stuff, and where home and family are the best and worst things that will ever happen to you. In this novel, it is possible to be dragged down by the world, but also to be lifted up by it. 

    The Distance Home by Paula Saunders ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

    The Other Side of Lost by Jessi KirbyA Wild for a younger audience. A wonderful look at grief, social media, and honesty. And a bonus that it could be an introduction or John Muir and Yosemite, as well. 

    The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby ($17.99*, Harper Teen), recommended by The Story Shop, Monroe, GA.

  • The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor

    The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregorImmersive, nuanced, and exquisitely strange, the interconnected stories within The Reservoir Tapes are a feat of genius. Jon McGregor offers us snippets of an array of lives within a small English town, which come to assemble the blast radius of the recent disappearance of a young teenager. The sheer range of voices within is stunning, as is the tone, which manages to be at once thoughtful, ominous, and humdrum. No event passes without being challenged, complicated, and re-considered from angle-upon-angle, perspective-upon-perspective. I both gloried in the small details and tactile prose—a llama that wasn’t even a llama, the bike grease that refuses to be scrubbed from one’s hands—and furiously flipped pages. This brilliant book is haunted by the specter of normality, which creeps back into the lives of townspeople altered by tragedy. 

    The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor ($22.00*, Catapult), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

    Heart of Thorns by Bree BartonFrom the publisher: Inventive and heart-racing, this fierce feminist teen fantasy from debut author Bree Barton explores a dark kingdom in which only women can possess magic—and every woman is suspected of having it.

    From The Country Bookshop: Heart of Thorns is by far one of the best books I have read in a long time. The writing was perfect, flowing beautifully and ending with a cliffhanger that was impossible to ignore. There was never a dull moment—each page packed with mystery, love, and action. I am eagerly awaiting Book Two.

    Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton ($17.99*, Katherine Tegen Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Paradox by Catherine Coulter

    Paradox by Catherine CoulterThe is the best Savich and Sherlock novel I have read in recent memory. Savich and Sherlock face real perils and react as any person would, not only as FBI agents. With Sheriff Ty Christie as an incredibly strong and intuitive supporting character and another FBI agent the pace is fast and satisfying. Does a serial killer prowl the local area, is a business corrupt, how far will someone stray off the path for greed? All are asked and answered in the pages of this book.  The ending is a surprise and the different yet intersecting plot lines keep you glued to the pages. Even if you have never read Coulter's FBI series you will enjoy this book, and probably return for more.

    Paradox by Catherine Coulter ($27.99*, Gallery Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

    America for Beginners by Leah Franqui This book was a delight. America for Beginners is a story about acceptance as well as the immigrant experience. Franqui delves into cultural prejudice and biases in an accessible and subtle way. This would be a good vacation read!

    America for Beginners by Leah Franqui ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

    Ghosted by Rosie WalshI can't remember the last time I actually said out loud, "Well, I didn't see THAT coming!" while reading a book.

    Sarah meets Eddie while on a short holiday home. After six incredible days together, Sarah knows that she has found "the one." They part knowing that they will be together again in a few short weeks. Unfortunately, a few short weeks come and go and Sarah has yet to hear from Eddie. Sarah's friends tell her that she's been ghosted and needs to move on. Sarah knows that something is terribly wrong and is determined to find out why Eddie vanished.

    Little does she realize that her past has caught up with her in a way that she never thought possible.

    Ghosted by Rosie Walsh ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.

  • The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

    The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer WiseA young man reluctantly takes over the family business (a shoe factory in China) and discovers the corruption and exploitation inherent in the system there. In the midst of coming to terms with all of that, Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy and they become close. But Ivy has an ulterior motive and while it aligns with some of Alex's sympathies, he's been manipulated and knows it.

    Beautiful writing and a plot that pulls you in and won't let go! 

    The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise ($26.99*, Hanover Square Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood

    The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica SpotswoodOne part Little Women, one part Sarah Dessen, with the small-town charm of Gilmore Girls, The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls is everything you want in a contemporary YA novel.

    Sweet, funny, honest, and heartfelt, the story follows four sisters as they navigate a summer that will change all of them in different ways. One sister tries to move on after a breakup, while another works up the nerve to do the breaking. One sister finds the potential for romance with a longtime crush, and another makes a friend who helps her discover what she wants. At the end of it all, the only thing that doesn't change is that the Garrett Girls will do anything to support and protect each other.

    The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood ($10.99*, Sourcebooks Fire), recommended by One More Page Books, Arlington, VA.

  • The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider, Chi Birmingham

    The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider, Chi BirminghamThink Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein and you'll be in good company with The Mortification of Fovea Munson. From the first sentence to the last, you'll laugh out loud. How Fovea and her friend, Howe, manage a recording session for three disembodied heads will keep you in stitches and wanting more!

    The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider, Chi Birmingham ($16.99*, Disney-Hyperion), recommended by Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA.

  • The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons

    The Wrong Heaven by Amy BonnaffonsThis debut collection of stories is unbelievably funny and charmingly bizarre.

    Winking at the absurdity and madness of modern womanhood, Bonnaffons's real talent is the crushing humanity she injects into each story. This collection has style, substance, and the perfect mix of whimsy and macabre.

    In short, I can't shut up about how much I loved it. Fans of Aimee Bender, Samantha Hunt, Karen Russell, George Saunders and all those other lovable literary weridos—make room on your literary altar for Amy and rejoice!

    The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons ($26.00*, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

    Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik Naomi Novik always delivers rich fantasy, surprising and satisfying. I love that Uprooted explores her mother’s side of the family and Polish folklore traditions, and Spinning Silver draws from her father’s side and Lithuanian Jewish traditions. I loved every second!

    Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik ($28.00*, Del Rey Books), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett

    The Unfortunates by Kim LiggettPrivilege can be deadly...

    Because of his parents wealth and power, teenager Grant has gotten away with murder.  Call it afluenza, but Grant's guilt and disgust with himself pushes him to make a drastic plan for self-punishment.  His quest for justice for the people he killed leads him to the Appalachian trail and a devastating cave in.  Now Grant has to help a small group of city kids survive, because it appears that something or someone is down in the caves with them. The Unfortunates also gets a million bonus cool points because it's set here in Richmond, Virginia!

    The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett ($18.99*, Tom Doherty Associates), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Hackl

    Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo HacklThis is a thoughtful, charming middle grade story, full of smarts. The way our heroine Cricket finds both wonder and sympathy for the flawed adults around her is heartwarming.

    Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Hackl ($16.99*, Random House Books for Young Readers), recommended by M Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers, Greenville, SC.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce

    Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. PearceA poignant and charming WWII story that occurs in England during the Blitz. Emma is trying to serve during wartime but really yearns to be a war journalist! But she has no experience! She does find a job typing for Mrs. Bird who responds to letters from newspaper customers. Mrs.  Bird is particular though and has strict guidelines about what kind of letter she will answer. And of course that causes a dilemma for Emma. Pearce has woven a lovely tale of friendship, love, loss and  all with a sense of humor and grit that only the Brits can have. I thoroughly enjoyed this heart warming journey with Emma and her friends. A great read!

    Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce ($26.00*, Scribner Book Company), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex

    Star Wars Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam RexDarth Vader isn't scared of anything. Not werewolves or vampires or ghosts or witches. Absolutely nothing scares him. But what about when everyone leaves...even the reader? This hilarious book will leave you in stitches as you read about just how Darth Vader feels about so-called scary monsters. It's an especially great pick for grownup Star Wars fans to share with the children in their lives.

    Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex ($17.99*, Disney Lucasfilm Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

    The Ruin by Dervla MctiernanAs a new, wet-behind-the-ears guard (or cop to those of us in the US) Cormac Reilly was called out to a domestic disturbance that turned out to be a death.  He finds fifteen year old Maude and her five year old brother Jack in a dilapidated home, malnourished, bruised, and broken while their mother lies dead upstairs.  He takes the pair to the hospital and while Jack is being seen to, Maude disappears, never to return.

    Twenty years later, Jack is in a  happy relationship when he disappears one evening.  The guarda receive an anonymous phone call saying someone saw him jump into the river, killing himself.  His partner, Aisling is in disbelief, but accepting of the fact until Jack's long long sister Maude returns to shake things up.

    This is the first in a new series focusing on Cormac Reilly.  There are SO many twists and turns in this story, making it hard to predict what will happen next.  There are so many elements at play that you'll be reading long into the night just to satisfy your curiosity.

    The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan ($16.00*, Penguin Group USA), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

    Those Other Women by Nicola MoriartyMarried, single. Children, no children. Work outside the home, stay at home. These are all choices that women everywhere face at one time or another.

    Poppy, Annalise and Frankie work together. Poppy is recently divorced and not handling the split very well. Annalise is contentedly single, trying to be a caring friend while keeping her life of lies straight. Frankie is a wife and mom trying to balance motherhood and work, trying to make a friend or two, and keeping a secret that may destroy her marriage. As a way to restore some of her confidence, Poppy decides to start a private on-line group for child-free-by-choice women.

    What starts out as a way for women who have chosen to remain child-free to encourage and support other like-thinking women soon turns into a war of words and actions with the local private moms' online group. A mole has infiltrated the child-free group and begins leaking malicious private posts to the moms' group. Suddenly lives are spinning out of control, and long held lies and secrets are close to erupting.

    Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

    The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay Wen and her dads are taking a break from everything by visiting a remote cabin for vacation. Wen is studying grasshoppers in their yard when a man comes up and makes friends with her. He warns her that she and her dads are going to have to make a decision.  And that's about all I can tell you without spoiling you.

    This book was SO creepy in a very good way. I'd classify this as horror, but in a very real way.

    The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley

    The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy FinleyWhen four-year-old William disappears from the woods behind his house in Nashville, the only witness is his seven-year-old brother who says "the lights took him" and then refuses to speak again. William’s grandmother, Lynn Roseworth, the wife of a senator and potential VP candidate is afraid she knows what those words mean. They are a link to her past--a past she has never talked about with her family, and one she fears will destroy her entire family.

    The Darkest Time of Night is a truly remarkably written story.  It is fast-paced and suspenseful...a thriller that is a combination of science fiction and government cover-up. Once you start, you can’t put this one down. A little bit scary, a whole lot heartrending: a complex plot, and many brave people make this a book that will make you question what might or might not actually exist.  

    The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood

    She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann HoodA great story about the beginnings of pop culture obsession pre-social media. Full of nostalgia and innocence. Every character is faced with the same dilemma of being at the point in their lives where they are trying to figure out where they fit in the society around them. I also loved that the end was a happy one. Great read. 

    She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood ($16.99*, Penguin Workshop), recommended by Books on Broad, Camden, SC.

  • Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith Jaeger

    Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith JaegerFor Violet Harcourt, 1940's Santa Cruz was no place of dreams.  As long as the recently crowned Miss California lived in the beautiful beach town, she would live in fear. An impulsive journey to Hollywood and a screen test could save her life or it end it.

    In 2007, Santa Cruz is the only place for Marisol Cruz. Her family's home for over 60 years, she grew up hearing the stories of her grandfather's famous boardwalk performances and loving the picturesque beach-side gazebo where her grandparents and others danced the nights away back in the day.

    While selling raffle tickets for the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, Marisol runs across a picture and article about the tragic death of Violet so many years before. The sadness she sees in Violet's eyes and the accompanying story leads her to explore what may have led to the untimely death of the young woman.  What Marisol finds will release a lifelong secret held by her adored grandfather, and change the lives of the people closest to her.

    Boardwalk Summer by Meredeith Jaeger ($15.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.

  • The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

    The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan CrandallTallulah James has a complicated family. Growing up in small-town Mississippi in the 60s, she and her siblings are ridiculed and ostracized because of their crazy family history. This novel takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as Tallulah tries to deal with her parents volatile personalities and tries to parent her younger siblings through the mess of their day-to-day life. This would make a good book club read with much to discuss: bipolar disorder, racism, and the upheaval of the 1960s.

    The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall ($16.00*, Gallery Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

    The Great Believers by Rebecca MakkaiThe Great Believers is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book. 

    The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai ($27.00*, Viking), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

    A Spring 2018 Read This! Next pick

  • A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen MirzaI have been ensconced in this book for a week and I don't want it to end. Such a beautiful story weaving a family new to this country and surviving children as the first generation in the USA, the 9/11 attacks while living as Muslims in California and the everyday angst of trying to please parents, siblings, community and finding yourself. So full of love for family and an intricate, in-depth knowledge of the reality of living as Muslims in present day America. I loved and understood each character and could relate to how they saw the world after living inside their heads. Reminiscent of The Kite Runner, this novel will resonate for years to come.

    A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza ($27.00*, SJP for Hogarth), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie

    The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie You never know what’s going to come out of Guinevere St. Clair’s mouth, and you never know what’s going to happen when she’s around. This book is both rough and beautiful, hilarious and tragic in the most wonderful of ways. I will be thinking about this story for some time to come.

    The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie ($17.99*, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Story Shop, Monroe, GA.

  • Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

    Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin Bearskin is not a typical action filled thriller. It is a beautifully written literary adventure set in a pristine area of Appalachian Virginia. The action, while slow at times, builds into something powerful and intense by the end. Rice Moore is trying to get his life back together after a vicious run in with the Sinaloa Mexican cartel. He is a biologist who cares deeply about the environment and the animals in his job as caretaker of a private Virginia nature reserve. Rice must figure out how to deal with bear poachers, a cartel member who tracked him from Arizona and members of a biker gang who beat up and raped the previous reserve caretaker. At the same time Rice must answer to his own moral compass and not do anything to jeopardize the life he has come to love.

    Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin ($26.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • 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.