GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

    Universal Harvester/John DarnielleA customer returns a copy of She's All That to a late-90s video store complaining about footage from a bizarre home movie spliced in. The mysterious scene shows hooded figures and vague, quietly horrifying movement.

    Universal Harvester will keep you up an night. It sneaks up on you and scares you when you least expect it. Quick and beautifully written-- highly recommend!

    Universal Harvester by John Darnielle ($25.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Colin, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    A young Spaniard reads a novel from a rare book library only to discover that someone is trying to destroy the author's other works. A gothic adventure for book lovers.

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón ($17, Penguin Books), recommended by Julia, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

    A heartbreaking, soul-wrenching, lovely and poetic book. Sekaran's two protagonists, Soli and Kavya, play tug of war with your heart and it's impossible to divide their stories into black and white. A politically important novel, because of its portrayal of immigration issues and the people affected by our failing policies, but Sekaran's story is much more than that; it's about love, and the storms we weather to protect it.

    Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran ($27, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Rachel, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie

    The novel could be the black comedy I've been waiting for all my life! While employing unique strategies to cope with the recent death of his wife, K. becomes quite literal-minded and loses his bull filter. Through a series of absurd events he becomes the host of a reality TV show in which he confronts people with the truth, with disastrous and hilarious results. Currie walks a tightrope of comedy over a gaping chasm of heartbreak. This is a perfect satire of modern American culture.

    The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie ($26, Viking), recommended by Tony, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

    This book has the feel of a classic World War II story while being unlike any other book I’ve read. The Women In The Castle are widows of the resistance after their husbands’ failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Jessica Shattuck’s magnificent storytelling transports the reader to another time and place and kept me awake at night thinking about these women and their stories.

    The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck ($26.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Rae Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

    Lazlo Strange is a war orphan, raised by monks, who became a librarian. Stories are his life, and dreams are his future -- specifically, his dream of the lost city of Weep, which has been unseen and mostly forgotten for 200 years. When a hero of Weep unexpectedly shows up looking for outsiders to bring back to help with the city's unexplained problem, Lazlo jumps at the chance, willing to do whatever it takes to get there and see the mystery for himself. When he gets there, it's nothing like he expected, and each answer he finds raises more questions. This magical, lyrical book is beautiful and heartbreaking, and you won't want to leave the mythical world of Weep and the characters who power its story. Fans of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy will not be disappointed. I am eagerly awaiting more from her about Weep and Lazlo.

    Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor ($18.99, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

    Seventeen year old Gwen's father has disappeared. She refuses to accept that he just abandoned her while on a diplomatic assignment. She uses a "certain set of skills" gained by her father's resources to track him to the underbelly of Europe. Think Taken, except the bad-ass daughter has to save her father. Full of action and excitement.

    The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom ($18.99, Feiwel & Friends), recommended by Mary, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Moon and the Other by John Kessel

    In his new novel, The Moon and the Other, set in the near future on the moon, John Kessel again demonstrates his visionary and compassionate eye. Through a lens of gender roles as they play out in the political clash of a matriarchy--The Society of Cousins--and a patriarchy--Persepolis--and in the lives of several of their citizens, Kessel explores human desire, expectation, emotion and alienation. Pointedly, too, he gives keen insights into how technology and coercion, in one form or another, affect our existence.

    The Moon and the Other ($27.99. Saga), recommended by Ken, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward; Marjorie Flack

    Erica at Lemuria Books encourages readers to redeiscover DuBose Heyward's (author of Porgy, the inspiration of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess) iconic children's book The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. First published in 1939, and filled with Marjorie Flack's charming illustrations, this Easter classic is worth visiting all year long. "I’ve recently gone back and reread it and I was shocked by its deeper meaning, and how wonderfully it is crafted for both children and parents," writes Erica. Read more on Lemuria's blog.

    The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward and Marjorie Flack ($7.99, Houghton Mifflin), recommended by Erica, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

    So, the title. "Ghachar ghochar" is an untranslatable phrase uttered when things become hopelessly tangled. Like the knot on the cover. Like the lives of Vincent's family after a sudden, collective change in financial status. Like their relationship with the relentlessly imperturbable ants that have invaded the family's living quarters. Translated from Kannada (a southern Indian language), this novella-length book will grab you from the first pages and hold you until the end. A compelling, engrossing family drama that I would call delightful, but for the ending …

    Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag ($15, Penguin Books), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

    From the publisher: Fifteen years ago, Susan Morrow left her first husband, Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer. Now, she's enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor's wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband's first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says. As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. And as we read with her, we too become lost in Sheffield's thriller. As the Hastings' ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously, violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future and will change her life.

    Mary at The Country Bookshop says Tony and Susan is a "truly creepy novel that will have you checking over your shoulder."

    Tony and Susan: The Riveting Novel That Inspired the New Movie Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright ($14.99, Grand Central Publishing), recommended by Mary, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff

    These stories are often brief, but hard-hitting. Crystalline prose and a deep sense of empathy make this collection special. It is so smart and hold no punches. As one character says, "In fiction, it's never benign."

    The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff ($24.95, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Tyler, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

    In the Babbitt house bustling like a rabbit hutch, you'll find a cast of characters you simply will not forget: a sleep-eating sister and sleep-swimming mother, a father exploring femininity, a parental parrot, and a daughter named after Elvis Presley. By attempting to understand herself, Elvis frames her life in beautiful juxtapositions, her then-life with mom and now-life without running deep and parallel. Honest with youth and grief, Elvis looks hard at what makes us human, perfectly mixing whimsy and absurdity. She exists at the intersection of science and wonder, willing to live in the face of death. Rabbit Cake is cause for celebration.

    Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett ($15.95, Tin House Books), recommended by Amanda, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

    From the publisher: Pig is a greedy and selfish pug. He has all the bouncy balls, bones, and chew toys a dog could ever want yet he refuses to share with his poor friend, Trevor. Little does he know, however, that being greedy has its consquences. Join Pig as he learns to share--the hard way! Young readers will love the irresistibly quirky and funny illustrations that are paired with a relatable lesson of learning to share with others.

    Kathryn at The Country Bookshop says, "My favorite storybook right now!"

    Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey ($11.99, Scholastic Press), recommended by Kathryn, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Outline by Rachel Cusk

    From the publisher: Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

    Outline by Rachel Cusk ($16.00, Picador USA), recommended by Angie, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Monsters in Appalachia: Stories by Sheryl Monks

    From the publisher: The characters within these fifteen stories are in one way or another staring into the abyss. While some are awaiting redemption, others are fully complicit in their own undoing. We come upon them in the mountains of West Virginia, in the backyards of rural North Carolina, and at tourist traps along Route 66, where they smolder with hidden desires and struggle to resist the temptations that plague them. A Melungeon woman has killed her abusive husband and drives by the home of her son’s new foster family, hoping to lure the boy back. An elderly couple witnesses the end-times and is forced to hunt monsters if they hope to survive. A young girl “tanning and manning” with her mother and aunt resists being indoctrinated by their ideas about men. A preacher’s daughter follows in the footsteps of her backsliding mother as she seduces a man who looks a lot like the devil. A master of Appalachian dialect and colloquial speech, Monks writes prose that is dark, taut, and muscular, but also beguiling and playful. Monsters in Appalachia is a powerful work of fiction.

    Damita at The Country Bookshop says, "I loved this collection. If you like Hillbilly Elegy, you will enjoy this."

    Monsters in Appalachia by Sheryl Monks ($16.99, Vandalia Press), recommended by Damita, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    George Saunders is too good for this world. His first novel spans just one night, and is one of the best explorations of love and death I have ever read. In a graveyard, the night Willie Lincoln is interred, we enter the bardo: a world between life and afterlife. As Lincoln mourns the death of his son, a chorus of voices share their own lives, deaths, griefs, and hopes. Like Lincoln, the novel is tender and humane, and delivers a message we all need to hear over and over again: to be as good as we can to each other.

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders ($28, Random House), recommended by Tyler, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

    From the publisher: The author of the wildly popular The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying psychological thriller--as tantalizing as the cinema classics Rear Window and Wait Until Dark--involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder. Told from multiple points of view, Her Every Fear is a scintillating, edgy novel rich with Peter Swanson's chilling insight into the darkest corners of the human psyche and virtuosic skill for plotting that has propelled him to the highest ranks of suspense, in the tradition of such greats as Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Patricia Highsmith, and James M. Cain. Julia at The Country Bookshop says, "A true Hitchcockian thriller, à la Rear Window."

    Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson ($26.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Jamie, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

    Quail Ridge Books recommends Mohsin Hamid's latest book, Exit West, a beautiful yet unsettling love story of refugees, set in unnamed countries in an unnamed time. Mamie says: "In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid places us in an unnamed country (as he did in How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia), and in doing so makes what happens there a universal metaphor for war-torn countries in the Middle East. Saieed and Nadia are refugees from one such country, navigating not only the landscape but their developing love affair. They have had to leave much behind in their homeland, including Saieed’s beloved father. Reality and the fantastical blend together as they migrate from one place to another. Hamid once again sheds light on the plight of the refugees who inhabit our world. The book is full of discussable material for book clubs."

    René says: "Exit West is one of the most devastating but hopeful books I have ever read. It could not be more relevant for our times. Mohsin Hamid brings us right into his characters’ lives and makes us see that we are much more similar than different. It is a book that everyone should read."

    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ($26, Riverhead Books), recommended by Mamie and René, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber

    From the publisher: Welcome, welcome to Caraval, Stephanie Garber's sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game. Mary from The Country Bookshop says, "A magnificent mix of mystery, romance, and magic. It had my emotions all over the place."

    Caraval by Stephanie Garber ($18.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by Mary, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

    Behind Her Eyes took me totally by surprise. From the beginning I knew it was the story of a very disturbed person, but which one was the sick one? I knew something happened in the past that was driving two of the main characters, and I thought I was discovering the truth about the past - but, boy, was I wrong. A very dark and eerie psychological thriller of love and obsession that you will not be able to put down until you discover the truth.

    Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough ($25.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by Nancy, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

    Andrew at Lemuria Books reviews Mississippi Blood, the final, riveting chapter in Greg Iles's Natchez Burning trilogy. (The second volume, The Bone Tree, was a 2016 Southern Book Prize winner). The whole trilogy is set in the Natchez, Mississippi, and centers on long-running Iles protagonist Penn Cage, who also appeared in The Quiet Game in 1999. The trilogy also features appearances from characters in the previously stand-alone and unrelated thriller Dead Sleep from 2001.

    "I personally first encountered the character of Penn Cage about four years ago on the pages of his second novel, Turning Angel. Penn became the latest in my personal parade of literary types that I treasure: the non-professional private eye," writes Andrew, about characters intertwined inseparably from their setting: "And that’s the thing about these characters: they inevitably become inseparable from their settings. Penn lives and breathes Natchez like its sins and successes are wholly his burden to bear."

    Read more about Mississippi Blood at Lemuria Book's blog.

    Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles ($28.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Andrew, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

    From the publisher: When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she's fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she's left searching. Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a "perfect little world" called The Infinite Family Project--to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. Damita at The Country Bookshop says, "In the Infinite Family Project, ten babies are raised collectively with shared parents --doomed from the start! This is a compelling book with so much food for thought."

    Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson, ($26.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Damita, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Scribe by Matthew Guinn

    An assured second effort from Guinn, a former Ole Miss professor. Set in Reconstruction Atlanta, a group of prominent businessmen known as “the Ring” has staked much on the city's Cotton Expo, but a rash of brutal murders jeopardizes their plan and the populace. Canby is a disgraced lawman brought back to the city as the lead investigator but quickly realizes how much is stacked against him. The cast of characters, taut plotting, and depiction of the period make for a great read.

    The Scribe by Matthew Guinn ($5.95, W.W. Norton & Comapny), recommended by Cody, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle

    Nashvillian Lydia Peelle won the Whiting Award for her story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing. Now we have her first novel, set in Tennessee during WWI and following the story of two charming Irishmen, a rebellious heiress, and a tempestuous black mare named the Midnight Cool. Peelle is an excellent storyteller. You will be turning pages long into the night.

    The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle ($26.99, Harper), recommended by Karen, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Burmese Days: A Novel by George Orwell

    Orwell draws on his years of experience in India to tell this story of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen living in a settlement in Burma congregate in the European Club, drink whiskey, and argue over an impending order to admit a token Asian. Definitely my favorite work of fiction! Great historical context, wonderful writing and the best ending to any book ever!

    Burmese Days: A Novel by George Orwell ($14.95, Harvest Books), recommended by John, Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.

  • I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora

    Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator Rachel Isadora returns with I Just Want to Say Good Night, a new spin on the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, set on the African plains.

    I Just Want to Say Good Night follows Lala as she puts off going to bed by saying goodnight to her family's cat, goat, chickens and more one at a time. "Isadora perfectly captures the universal ritual of a child saying goodnight to everything as a way to stall going to bed," said Erin Barker, buyer and manager at Hooray for Books! in Alexandria, Va. "The book is humorous and gentle, and the main character is adorable.”

    I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora ($17.99, Nancy Paulsen Books), recommended by Erin, Hooray for Books, Alexandria VA.

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

    This collection of four books contains nearly 200 short stories. Some might be a casual three or four pages long, some might be one or two sentences, but they're all amazing. Lydia Davis writes like no one else: her stories are weird, funny, deep, and beautiful, starting and ending in the span of a couple minutes.

    The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis ($23, Picador USA), recommended by Jacob, Malaprops Books, Asheville, NC.

  • Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

    Charles Martin has done it again with his latest novel. A retelling of the parable of the prodigal son I highly recommend.

    Long Way Gone by Charles Martin ($25.99, Thomas Nelson), recommended by Kitty, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

    In the tradition of Wilfred Thesiger's The Marsh Arabs and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Marshlands explores a culture virtually snuffed out under Saddam Hussein, and how we cement our identities by pointing at someone to call "other." Elegant, brief, and searing, the book shivers with the life of a fragile, lost world.

    Marshlands will live on my favorite shelf, for sure. It is a surprising and well-written novel by Matthew Olshan, who also has a fun children’s book titled A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785.

    Marshlands by Matthew Olshan ($14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Emöke, Malaprops Books, Asheville, NC.

  • Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

    There is a tension and stark beauty that pervades all pages of Smith’s novel. It delivers blunt, realistic dialogue and long, beautiful run-on sentences that never manage to trip over themselves. Smith is unquestionably a craftsman of the highest order. He managed to surprise me several times, only to have that surprise seem inevitable in retrospect. This is the first ‘grit lit’ novel I’ve picked up and been enchanted by, so I don’t have any ready comparisons to Ron Rash or Tom Franklin for you, although they seem equally impressed by Smith to go by their blurbs on the cover of the book. I will say that this is sharp Southern fiction at its finest, and I encourage you not to miss it.

    Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith ($26, Lee Boudreaux Books), recommended by Andrew, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

    This is one of my favorite books coming out this year and one of the best young adult fantasies I've read in a long time. Chupeco's world building is done carefully and precisely, revealing the pertinent information a little bit at a time. The characters are almost all female and all are strong, brave, courageous, and intelligent in their own right. The plot is complex but well thought out and the writing is cinematic. If this doesn't get optioned for a movie, I'll be surprised. highly recommend this books for those that love The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld or Daughter of Smoke and Bone. This could also easily be an adult crossover for those that enjoy Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, or Memoirs of a Geisha.

    The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco ($17.99. Sourcebooks Fire) recommended by Foggy Pine Books, Boone, NC.

  • Virgin and Other Stories by April Lawson

    These stories take place in the South, but their true terrain is the landscape of attraction, jealousy, and aggression—the easily-suppressed emotions that end up shaping so much of how we act. You might not realize it, but you think the way Lawson's characters think. Read this once to get caught up in their psychology, then again to appreciate how finely crafted the sentences are.

    Virgin and Other Stories by April Lawson ($23, Farrar Straus and Giroux), recommended by Travis, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

     A Fall 2016 Okra Pick

  • The Eyes Have It by Julie Allan

    Elizabeth “Lizzie” Long has recently been informed by her husband that he is moving on, and she also learned the news about her beloved Uncle’s passing. Lizzie packs up her dogs and moves back home to McClellanville, South Carolina, to soak up the healing vibes of the low country. With the help of her Aunt, and old friends, Lizzie realizes all that she has been missing in life and what she truly wants for her future. As Lizzie makes peace with her present, will she allow her past pain to control her chance at happiness? Julie Allan delivers a quaint, low country romance story that provides a delightful set-up to a series. Fans of wholesome, second chance romances, will appreciate this debut novel. The beautiful South Carolina coastline sets the scene for this book. Readers will chuckle at Lizzie’s predicaments and they will be anxious to find out how her life plays out in the end.

    The Eyes Have It by Julie Allan ($12.99, Bublish, Inc.), recommended by Nicole, My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

    A magical debut novel: part fairy tale and part historical fiction set in medieval Russia.

    The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden ($27, Del Rey Books), recommended by Amy, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Dry by Jane Harper

    An atmospheric debut mystery that takes place under the blistering Australian sun. A federal agent returns to his hometown to find a decades old crime influencing his investigation of a horrific new one. Tightly paced and hard to put down.

    The Dry by Jane Harper ($25.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by Bonnie, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

    This is great historical fiction about the first wife of Albert Einstein, Mitza Maric, who was a brilliant physicist in her own right. Her relationship with Albert and their marriage reveal the difficulty for women during the early 20th century to have a career. Her own contributions to the field of developing science helped promote Albert’s career but as his career began to rise, she was diminished and her scientific endeavors stifled. Benedict reveals Mitza’s struggles and disappointments with sensitivity and insight. A must read about a fascinating woman.

    The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict ($25.99, Sourcebooks Landmark(, recommended by Stephanie, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (A Novella) by Fredrik Backman

    Fredrik Backman’s latest book is small yet carries a lot of weight. The story of a grandson and son dealing with a grandfather’s dementia. Every word cuts right to the heart. Sincerely moving and endearing. A book all should read!

    And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (A Novella) by Fredrik Backman ($18, Atria Books), recommended by Melanie, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker

    A fascinating novel of passion and obsession with a TON of swinging music. Considered the first jazz novel, Dorthy Baker's 1938 debut puts you right up on the bandstand--smack dab in the middle of jazz's first golden age. DIG IT!

    Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker ($14.95, New York Review of Books), recommended by Slade, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors

    The two novellas in So Much for That Winter have certain things in common with each other and relatively little in common with anything else I’ve ever read. They are unique in form. “Minna Needs Rehearsal Space” is told in declarative sentences, one after another, one line at a time, never grouped as paragraphs. “Days” is a story in numbered bullet points. While, admittedly, it takes a page or two to get used to storytelling in these formats, once you are used to it (if you’re like me anyway), you forget that it’s different. Instead, it works with the story. Both novellas’ main characters are women recovering from break-ups. The story-in-headlines of Minna conveys how our very thinking is altered in the aftermath of a dissolved relationship: everything feels drastic, nothing flows naturally, and every action completed without the support or presence of a former partner feels like an accomplishment. Similarly, in “Days,” the lists feel like journal entries, all seemingly saying, “I survived this day. I will keep on surviving.” Altogether, the book is around 160 pages of anxiety and revelation. It took me hardly any time to read it, but processing it was a long and enjoyable experience.

    So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors ($15, Graywolf Press/Farrar Straus Giroux), recommended by Laura, Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN.

  • Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliot Chaze

    This lost classic of noir is maybe the best work of crime fiction you’ve never heard of. Long hard to find, it ranks right up there with the best of Chandler, Hammett, and other masters. Hopefully, now Chaze (who spent most of his career as a journalist in Hattiesburg, MS) will finally get the recognition that he deserves.

    Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliot Chaze ($12.95, New York Review of Books), recommended by Cody, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

    Two little girls meet in dance class and become fast friends, until one proves to be a much better dancer and a much less stable person and the whole thing falls apart. Zadie Smith proves that great literature can also be a great read. This book is a joy.

    Swing Time by Zadie Smith ($27, Penguin PRess), recommended by Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Golden Age by Joan London

    The Golden Age, by Australian novelist and bookseller Joan London, takes place in a hospital for children recovering from polio in Perth in the 1950’s. That may not sound like a particularly cheerful subject and, in many ways, it isn’t. The novel covers not only the ravages of polio, but also, because it centers around a Jewish immigrant family, it discusses the ravages of war. London’s writing, however, is transcendent. What could be a bleak, mournful tale is instead a beautiful story about finding poetry in the halls of a hospital and hope in the face of despair. This is a book I read all in one sitting because I just didn’t want to stop.

    The Golden Age by Joan London ($17, Europa Editions), recommended by Laura, Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN.

  • Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller

    Miller's writing is stripped down and carefully refined, packing a whole vision of the world into as few eye-widening details as possible. The stories in this collection explore the realities of women living between two worlds, with one foot in the future their meant to be striving toward and the other firmly rooted in their usually grim and booze-filled present. Though the stories can verge on the harsh, they always evoke a world that is immediately recognizable and palpably real. A great new collection by a writer who never seems to disappoint.

    Always Happy Hour ($24.95, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Donovan, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    Sometimes when the going gets tough I like to set aside that serious literary novel that’s collecting dust on my nightstand and hole up with a fun, breezy whodunit that’s just plain brain candy. This funny thriller did the trick for me, so I’m looking forward to tuning into HBO on February 19 for the much buzzed-about six-episode miniseries adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

    Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty ($16, Berkley Books), recommended by Katherine, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Huck: Book 1 by Mark Millar

    Mark Millar, a Marvel Comics veteran, has since said that his inspiration when writing Huck was the film Man of Steel, which he felt portrayed a very depressing, serious version of the superhero-archetype. The eponymous character of Huck is his response; a simple small-town handyman with Superman-esque powers, an optimistic attitude, and a desire to help people. The result is a heartwarming adventure drawn by Eisner-nominated artist Rafael Albuquerque that is most certainly one of my absolute favorites of the last few years.

    Huck: Book I by Mark Millar ($14.99, Image Comics), recommended by Hunter, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

    For a teenager living in the ugly world of 2044, his escape from reality, and then his survival, depends on a worldwide video game. Pop-culture references from the 70s and 80s make this an entertaining read for those of a certain age; the adventure makes it enjoyable for all.

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ($16, Broadway), recommended by Bill, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

    This is an amazing book, I simply loved everything about it. Any fan of historical fiction, novels about human failings and dialog that is almost poetic should read this book. The depiction of the civil war on a very personal level to one woman is stirring and hard to take in. The book is a series of letters to and from various family members and by then end of the first 30 pages you feel invested in every member involved. In some ways it is a revisit to the time when letters were the form of communication that existed and what a picture they could paint. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, the writing is wonderful.

    The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers, ($25.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), recommended by Jackie and Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Winter 2017 Okra Pick

    Meet Susan Rivers at Fiction Addiction 2/16/2017Read Susan Rivers' essay about how she discovered her novel's characters and their story.

  • Pawleys Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

    Artist Rebecca Simms turns to Pawleys Island as a sanctuary from her tumultuous past. In this quaint town, she finds a cast of characters who are desperate to know her past and help her have a better future. Abigail Thurmond left the drama of the courtroom behind, when she retired to Pawleys Island to begin a new career as an author. However, when she meets Rebecca, Abigail knows she must dive back into her old career, to fight for Rebecca. Dorothea Benton Frank’s writing is a bit predictable, but light-hearted, which makes for a good beach read. Though this is the fifth book in the series, it works well as a standalone. The setting of Pawleys Island makes this a great vacation for one’s mind.

    Pawleys Island by Dorothea Benton Frank ($7.99, Berkley Publishing Group), recommended by Nicole, My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • When Watched by Leopoldine Core

    Elizabeth loves When Watched by Leopoldine Core: Core delves into the wonderful strangeness that is the human mind. These characters--and the relationships they form--can be funny, unsettling, irritating, and are always entirely captivating. If you want to read about the complexities of love and sex, read this. If you want to read a book you can't put down, read this.

    When Watched by Leopoldine Core (Penguin Books, $16.00), recommended by Elizabeth at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

    If you're craving more episodes of Stranger Things but can't wait for the season two release, you need Paper Girls. From Saga creator Brian K. Vaughn and Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang comes this spooky and amazing story of four newspaper delivery girls out in the wee hours after Halloween night. Paper Girls is thrilling and funny, peppered with excellent late 80's phrases in an incredibly unique voice.

    Paper Girls by Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang ($9.99, Image Comics), recommended by Johanna, Flyeaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

    This is one of those books that sounds utterly ridiculous when you try to describe it: talking elephants in space! But the author creates such wonderful characters and builds such a unique, dynamic universe, that I totally fell under the spell of Barsk. This beautifully written adventure is full of heart and wonder as well as complex concepts of morality, science and spirituality. Talking elephants in space: yes!

    Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen ($16.99, Tor ), recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

    Written by Nobel Prize-winning author Sigrid Undset, this trilogy is a masterpiece, with each book in the series better than the last. Set in the 14th-century and reveling in the everyday details of medieval life in Norway, the saga follows one woman through childhood, young love, married life, motherhood and into old age. The Wreath is Kristin's coming-of-age story: she recklessly enters a relationship with an older man that puts her at odds with her father and the Christian church she was raised in. Persevere past the unfamiliar names and places and you will be rewarded with a richly immersive literary experience.

    Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset ($16, Penguin), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill NC.

  • Stick a Fork in Me by Dan Jenkins

    Fans of Dan Jenkins will be very happy with his latest novel. Jenkins is well-known among sports fans for his satirical, funny tomes set in the world of sports. What he did for football with Semi-Tough and golf with Dead Solid Perfect, he now does for big-time college sports. Good ol' boy Pete Wallace has finally reached the top of the college sports world by becoming the athletic director at Western Ohio University. The story of how Pete handles politically correct campus culture, fragile egos, and colorful characters is laugh out loud funny.

    Stick a Fork in Me by Dan Jenkins (Tyrus $16.99), recommended by Bill, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto

    Renowned for her novella Kitchen, Yoshimoto is back with the story of a love murder-suicide's aftermath. An ode to life after death-part jagged family portrait and part mystery with tugs of the surreal. As always, Yoshimoto delves into the psychology of her characters with tender attention, exploring grief and its warped passage. Murakami fans with enjoy Yoshimoto's trademark style, her prose as cleansing as steam water slipping off a mirror.

    Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto ($25, Counterpoint Press), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore

    An intimate portayal of the enigmatic and troubled character at its core, Joe Gould's Teeth is both startlingly perceptive and seductively plotted. While providing a thorough study into the life of Joe Gould and his infamous manuscript, Lepore also transports you back into the NYC literary scene of the 1930s-40s. Don't let the size fool you, this is a great quick read with graceful, fast-paced prose and some serious emotional heft.

    Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore ($24.95, Knopf), recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

    Natasha knows from experience that dreams will get you nowhere, so she keeps herself well-grounded. Even when she's hours away from being deported with her family back to Jamaica. Daniel is a poet at heart, a romantic who believes in fate and destiny, so when he sees a girl standing out from the crowd, he doesn't think twice about ditching his parent-sanctioned college interview to go after her. A series of coincidences have them meeting several times, but is it enough to convince Natasha to believe in the meant-to-be future that Daniel sees? I loved Yoon's gorgeous writing and couldn't help falling in love with the characters myself.

    The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon ($18.99, Delacorte Press), recommended by Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie

    Burning Glass will take you to a world that feels like old Russia. It is full of political tension, especially between two brothers, but it’s Sonya’s job to navigate these tense situations and find a way to protect herself and her country.

    Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie ($17.99, Katherine Tegen Books), recommended by Erica, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

    Think of The Immortals as like American Gods with considerably less work. Reimagining the Greek gods in modern day New York City, this will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson who are now all grown up as well as those who liked The Magicians. Action packed and a great escape read.

    The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky ($15.99, Orbit), recommended by Kelly at Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • Replica by Lauren Oliver

    Replica tells the dual stories of two girls affected by scientific revolutions in an ambiguous tale that can be read in any order.

    Replica by Lauren Oliver ($19.99, HarperCollins), recommended by Erica, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, Christian Robinson

    This is my favorite picture book of the year. I really love when authors take a well-known theme and put a spin on it! This charming story is a unique take on the back-to-school theme and just made me feel so much joy while I was reading it. A brand-new school building -- aptly named School -- has to adjust to first day jitters of his own, including lots of children who aren't exactly quiet, neat, or tidy. A few of the children don't even like School! As the children slowly get over their first day fears, the school also learns to enjoy the chaos, with a little help from a compassionate custodian. School is a fully drawn character, both silly and sentimental, that you can enjoy all year round. Amazing illustrations by Christian Robinson wrap up this beautiful package. Readers young and old will have fun reading this sweet story.

    School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, Christian Robinson (illus.) ($17.99, Roaring Brook Press), recommended by Amanda, Hooray for Books, Alexandria, VA.

  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr

    I lived in NY's Hudson Valley when this came out, and know how well Carr (also a Hudson Valley resident) describes it all. I love historical fiction that mixes true and fictional characters. NY police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt sets up an unofficial team to investigate a serial killer, in an era in which such a concept is unknown.

    The Alienist by Caleb Carr, ($17, Random House Trade), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC. 

  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

    This book is full of thrilling mysteries and tension while shedding light on a little known tragedy from WWII.

    Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys ($18.99, Philomel Books), recommended by Erica, Lemuia Books, Jackson, MS.

  • The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

    I love that it combined historical fiction with a strong female character's search for self. It appealed to both the nerd and the dreamer in me.

    The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church ($25.95, Algonquin Books), recommended by Nancy, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Not I I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

    Parker is blind and has been for years. She copes by not caring what anyone thinks of her -- as long as they follow The Rules, a set of what she considers common sense guidelines for dealing with someone who's blind. Rules she enforces even more since her best friend Scott broke her heart two and a half years ago. But when Scott shows back up, Parker starts to realize that maybe she doesn't know everything she thought she did. Lindstrom has a way of getting you into his character's head, making you see things from her perspective that you wouldn't otherwise be able to. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstom ($9.99, Poppy Books), recommended by Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    My childhood favorite - read uncountable times.  What young girl doesn't identify with Meg?  After several years, L'Engle wrote several sequels, but Time is a standalone gem.

    A Wrinkle in Time ($6.99, Square Fish), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Beachhead by Jeffery Hess

    Beachhead is a suspense novel with lots of action, twists and turns.  Hess brings the 1980’s Tampa to life with a descriptive narrative that is well-written and kept me guessing.  With its interesting plot and realistic characters this is a must read for anyone wanting to learn a little bit of Florida history. Beachhead by Jeffery Hess ($16.95, Down & Out Books), recommended by the staff at Bookswap of Carrollwood, Tampa, FL.

  • The Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

    In a near future where items are mass produced and duplicated endlessly, Katya is a traveling salesman of sorts - an expert who locates and deals in "authenticities and captures" (vintage items that carry a hefty price tag). Katya's clients are typically of the wealthy and influential sort, and Katya fancies herself a generally in-the-know person. But when she ventures into a remote area where her A.I. drops off the grid, Katya encounters a hunter in the woods that brings into question her understanding of the world. The level of world building in this short book is staggering! A ton of fun to read and will leave you pondering for days after.

    The Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal ($9.99, TOR), recommended by Lane, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC. 

  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

    Lyrical yet endlessly gut-wrenching, History of Wolves soars on so many levels. It is a psychologically astute coming-of-age novel about a young girl who lives on the outskirts of a small Minnesota town, but it becomes much more once a classmate reports sexual abuse by a teacher, and a mysterious family moves into the new house—the only other house nearby—just across the lake. While the novel is wonderfully layered and emotionally deep, Fridlund also creates suspense just about as well as any crime writer in recent memory. If you’re looking for something exciting yet deeply fulfilling, pick this one up; but be warned, this is one of those books that you won’t be able to shake for a few days after you’ve finished it.

    History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund ($25, Atlantic Monthly Press), recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Sparrow/A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell


    Rosemary, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC, places The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace, both by Maria Doria Russell, in her top ten list of books. About The Sparrow she says, "One of the best books I've ever read! Thought-provoking, fascinating, and thoroughly original, this is “science fiction” even for those who say they won't read it. Mary Doria Russell posits what can happen when very different cultures meet for the first time and, with the best of intentions, collide. Pick up the sequel, Children of God, at the same time. When you finish The Sparrow,  you'll want to leap into the next book.”

    A Thread of Grace is "epic historical fiction at its finest. Set during WWII, Italy has just surrendered. Nazi forces, Allies, Jewish refugees - all are descending on Italy, and it is hell on earth.  Told from different viewpoints, you will be constantly surprised, sometimes stunned, by what happens.  Mary visited for this book and said in researching it, so many survivors said luck was the prime factor of survival. So, with the exception of one character, she had her son flip a coin for each to determine his or her fate.”

    The Sparrow ($17, Ballantine Books) and A Thread of Grace ($17, Ballantine Books), by Mary Doria Rusell, recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

    Tyler loves The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close: This is the story of Beth, a woman who moves to DC when her husband Matt gets a job campaigning for Obama during the 2008 election. For Beth, the city never feels like home until she and Matt become friends with Ash and her husband Jimmy, who also works in the administration. The rest of the novel is a sometimes comedy, always careful study of these four people, and how their friendships, relationships, and professional lives entangle and constrict. The backdrop of the Obama administration and Texas politics are fascinating, and Close's dry humor and sharp observations make The Hopefuls an "open it and realize four hours have gone by" novel.

    The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Tyler at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

    Irving is one of my favorite authors, and this is, what I consider, his masterpiece. A fascinating tale of one of the most unique characters I have ever read. The ultimate story of faith, redemption, love and friendship. It is funny, heart-breaking, and unforgettable.

    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (HarperTorch, $7.99), recommended by Margaret at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex Smith

    Instead of traveling through the woods, this Little Red travels across the African plains to bring her Auntie some medicine. The Very Hungry Lion didn’t know what he was getting in to when he decided to mess with this smart, strong girl!

    Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex Smith (Scholastic Press, $17.99), recommended by Jackie at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Nutshell by Ian McEwan

    A modern-day reimagining of Hamlet, as told by a third-trimester fetus. No, really! From his cramped quarters in the womb, our yet-to-be-born narrator overhears his mother and  uncle plotting to murder his father. Sure, the premise is far-fetched, but you'll be amazed how McEwan pulls it off. Nutshell is an ingenious, hilarious page-turner of a novel.

    Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese, $24.95), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur

    In the fictional world of Sofarende there is war, and it is getting closer to home for 12-year-old Mathilde and her best friend Meg. Perfect for 4th or 5th graders who are ready for something more advanced but aren’t ready for YA content yet.

    Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur (Wendy Lamb Books, $16.99), recommended by Catherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

    Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, known as Vinnie, was born with dwarfism. She grew to be two feet, eight inches tall, but she never let her size stop her from living life to the fullest. Vinnie did so well in school, she became a school teacher, but deep down she craved more. Through life’s ups and downs, she finally teamed up with P. T. Barnum. The two became close friends and he introduced her to Tom Thumb, one of his other performers.

    This fictionalized novel tells the story of Vinnie, through her perspective on life. The long chapters are broken up with intermissions that show the newspaper headlines.  Melanie Benjamin is an excellent author, providing readers with an insider’s view into the personal lives of celebrities. Written as an autobiography, this book will open readers’ eyes to the world of the lady who entranced the world. There are phrases in this book that will live in readers’ hearts forever.

    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

    A man is called home to Memphis from New York by his two middle-aged sisters to deal with their elderly father who is about to re-marry. Did you know there was so much Nashville and middle-Tennessee history in this wonderful novel?

    A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor (Vintage Books USA, $14.95), recommended by Kathy Schultenover at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Kids of Appetite by Dave Arnold

    David Arnold is special. Kids of Appetite somehow combines extreme quirk, mystery, and heart within a literary sensibility that's often undervalued in young adult novels. I loved Arnold's debut Mosquitoland for Mim's singular and compelling voice as she explored her internal and external world. In Kids of Appetite, Arnold once again offers unique voices that linger long after you turn the last page. Mad and Vic are narrators with their own motivations - propelled by the secrets and stories of Baz, Nzuzi, and Coco. Let yourself fall into these characters-- become a Kid of Appetite.

    Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (Viking Books for Young Readers, $18.99), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

    This book isn’t brand new, but I feel it didn’t get enough attention this summer. I love reading mysteries in the fall, and Walker kept me guessing. I’m VERY CHOOSY with my thrillers, and this is a smart one.

    All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99), recommended by Sissy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, (John Batki & George Szirtes, translators)

    The Last Wolf is one fabulous sentence that runs for 70 pages. Afterwards, you can turn the book over and read the novella Herman. This book is beautiful, difficult, and absolutely worth it.

    The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, $15.95), recommended by Nathan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

    The Wonder kept me guessing until the very end and stayed with me for a long time after. Emma Donoghue plays to her strengths in this marvelously crafted religious thriller set in the mid-19th century Irish countryside. As always, Donoghue has done her research in telling the story of a "fasting girl" and a Nightingale Nurse. Suspenseful historical fiction driven by excellent characters.

    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (Little Brown and Company, $27.00), recommended by Leila at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, TN.

  • Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

    Perfume River is a haunting reflection on the psychic scars inflicted by the Vietnam War on three men. There are brothers Robert, who went to Vietnam, and Jimmy who went to Canada. And there's Bob, whose father was a Vietnam vet. In economically direct prose, Butler finds his way into the souls of men and the way they deal with their thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of the complex relationship of father and son. It took just one paragraph for me to understand why Butler is a Pulitzer winner.

    Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly $25), recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

    A beautifully written, complex story of war, love, intrigue and shifting loyalties in occupied Italy towards the end of WW II. This novel pairs very nicely with All The Light We Cannot See, again showing the complexities of everyday life-- not the least of which include being young and passionate about life -- while living in occupied territory.

    The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (Simon & Schuster, $27.00), recommended by Jamie at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Trespasser by Tana French

    This was my first Tana French novel, and now I have to go back and read them all. A taut procedural with a healthy dose of paranoia, The Trespasser finds Detective Antoinette Conway navigating a hostile work environment while solving what seems to be an open-and-shut murder case. French is a master manipulator, and this novel had me thinking in an Irish accent.

    The Trespasser by Tana French (Viking, $27.00), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel, NC.

  • Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

    In Heroes of the Frontier, the main character, Josie, is a dentist by trade. When a patient sues her for malpractice, Josie grabs her kids and escapes from her work troubles and her no-good husband Carl. What she can’t escape are her invisible burdens: her past―her parents were scandal-ridden nurses―and her lack of self-confidence and sense of direction. Whether she’s running 'toward' or 'away,' the reader and her endearing children―Paul, an eight-year-old with an old soul (the adult of the family most of the time!), and Ana, who is a handful―go along for the ride.

    Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (Knopf $28.95), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

    Caleb loves Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone: Gladstone's Craft Sequence is the most finely-crafted Urban Fantasy I've seen in years. When money is your soul and corporations are gods and all-powerful skeleton men, who looks our for the little guys? (Magical necromancer lawyers.)

    Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone (Tor Books, $27.99), recommended by Caleb at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

    The story is built around a family road-trip full of comic moments, but these aren’t the Griswolds, and they’re not headed to Walley World. Every member of the Wang family is fighting to hang onto his or her own very specific American dream as they journey from California to New York after the loss of the family fortune. Jade Chang’s voice is fresh, her take on the immigrant narrative is new, but her themes are timeless. A really fun read.

    The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (Houghton Mifflin, $26), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

    Few of us know what to do when someone has lost a loved one, and when it's a child who has lost a sibling or parent or grandparent, the task is exponentially more difficult. I was searching for a book for a child whose mother had died and discovered the exquisite gem, The Fox and the Star, with arts and crafts style drawings by award-winning illustrator, Coralie Bickford-Smith. It is the story of Fox, who is guided through life by his Star until one day Star disappears. First he hides and grieves, and then he decides to go and find his Star. In the face of grief, we are all haunted stragglers, but this book will bring solace and hope to the child in all of us.

    The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin, $20), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

    At one point while reading this book, I yelled out loud: “Don’t do it!” (I can’t tell you when or why — that would spoil it.) A haunting story about a disappearance, it’s also a portrait of a family — and one of my favorite releases of this fall.

    Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin Books, $26.95), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The North Water by Ian McGuire

    Dark, brutal, and atmospheric, The North Water is the story of an ill-fated whaling ship, peopled with men of dark conscience or no conscience. Reminiscent of The Revenant in its stark story of survival and revenge against all odds, this book is chock full of men being men, doing manly things and occasionally murdering each other. A rip roaring tale of viscera and ice.

    The North Water by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt & Company, $27), recommended by Steve at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

    Part rap style poetry, part love story to a father and to basketball; good young adult fiction about 12-year-old twin boys.

    The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (HMH Books for Young Readers $16.99), reader recommendation by Martha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    This fascinating novel opens in 18th century Ghana, whose residents are not just victims, but sometimes willing participants, in the slave trade with the English. Two sisters from different villages never meet, but they start a family tree whose branches are chronicled into the 20th century. Gyasi presents the stories of these characters so vividly; even as the decades race by you will feel an intimate connection with each one.

    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Karen at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson

    We usually think of 'all men are created equal' when considering the start of our country. Ashes, which completes Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy set during the Revolutionary War, reminds us jarringly that this was not the case. Through the trilogy, we experience the hardships, hypocrisies, and always-cherished bonds of friendship from the perspective of Isabel, an escaped slave. Anderson always writes compelling, complicated characters for whom we care deeply. Ashes brings deep satisfaction to the trilogy. Ages 9+.

    Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy $16.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books. Raleigh, NC.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    Exuberant grandiosity! A poet's belief that the world will be changed by a literary movement! You'll find people you know so well you can practically touch them despite the fact they live in Mexico City in the 1970s. I've not had more fun reading a book in ages!

    The Savage Dectives by Roberto Bolaño (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $27), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

    Nanette has it all--popular friends, a top spot on her school soccer team and the promise of college scholarships to go with it--but as graduation looms, she’s realizing the life ahead is not the life she wants. As for so many of us, it’s the discovery of that one cult classic novel that thrusts her out of her mold and into the joys--and pains--of life outside the bubble. For anyone who’s ever looked around at life and wondered how the hell they got there, this novel is the perfect fun, reflective read.

    Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99), recommended by Shannon at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays

    There are passages in this novel that make me cry every time I read them, but not because of the great

    sadness (of losing a loved one to Alzheimers) but because of its beautiful depiction of marital and familial love.

    The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays (St. Martins Griffin) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

    In the 1970s, Joan is a professional ballerina. Her company features the Russian breakout star, Arslan Ruskov. Joan is the reason he is in the United States--she even drove the get-away car. Despite the fact that she loves Arslan, he is engaged to another woman and Joan knows she will never be a soloist, so she decides to leave the ballet world. Joan marries her high school boyfriend and they live a nice life, but when their son begins to study dance, Joan is forced back into the lifestyle. Will her secrets be exposed or will her son be able to follow his dreams?

    Astonish Me is written with a style similar to a performance. It is divided into different acts and the narration sets the scene as the events unfold. Several different topics are broached in this book, ranging from parenting styles to marriages to work ethics. This is a book that you will want to read with someone else, as the ending will leave you desperate to discuss with a friend who understands.

    Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • El Paso by Winston Groom

    The bestselling author of Forrest Gump shifts the scene to the American Southwest in this tale of border wars, Pancho Villa, family and revenge.

    El Paso by Winston Groom (Liveright Publishing Corporation, $27.95), recommended by Kathy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

    A mesmerizing story of a man's life before, during, and after WWI. Filled with beauty and horror in equal measure, it is a tale that will haunt you. Helprin's prose is poetic, and his power to leave you awestruck is fully demonstrated in this beautiful novel.

    A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (Harvest Books, $16.99), recommended by Margaret at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

    Mary DiNunzio is a successful attorney and a partner at the Rosato & DiNunzio firm. Her schedule has gotten complicated, due to her wedding being a few weeks away. However, when an elderly man named Edward comes in for a free consultation, Mary’s world is turned upside down. Edward’s grandson, Patrick, is being sued by a teacher’s aide for assault. Sadly, it is this shy, dyslexic boy who bears the markings of abuse. As Mary becomes more involved in finding out the truth, she becomes the only chance Patrick has at surviving and leading a healthy life. Is Mary going to lose everything she has in order to protect Patrick, or will the evidence prove Mary wrong?

    Lisa Scottoline packs a powerful punch in this novel. Despite it being the fourth in a series, the plot works well as a stand-alone story. Readers, like Mary, will be drawn in right from the moment they meet Patrick and they will be kept guessing as they try to figure out the truth through all the multiple twists and intense secondary storylines. Damaged is a book that weaves its way into readers’ hearts. The author does an excellent job at showing the current struggles children with learning disorders face on a daily basis. Filled with a large family, human emotions, and one dramatic courtroom scene, readers of literature and mysteries will devour this book.

    Damaged by Lisa Scottoline, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.