GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • The Risen by Ron Rash

    A 2016 OKRA PICK
    I'd be happy to read Ron Rash's grocery lists. Rash stays centered in western North Carolina in his new novel, The Risen. But he moves from the sweeping forest vista of Serena and the moral issues of WWI (The Cove) to a more intimate setting. Two brothers have taken very different paths. When the events of a long-ago summer literally rise up, their family history and dynamics come bubbling up, too.

    The Risen by Ron Rash (Ecco $25.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Lost Girls by Heather Young

    Heather Young’s debut novel, is the story of three generations of women and mainly set in a desolate part of Minnesota. In 1935, a six-year-old girl disappears without any explanation, and she's never heard of or seen again. The novel explores the effects Emily's disappearance has on her siblings and succeeding generations of women in the family. It's haunting and beautifully written.

    The Lost Girls by Heather Young (William Morrow $25.99), recommended by Mari Lu, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Girls by Emma Cline

    A young girl comes of age while living in a fictionalized Manson family in a dilapidated house in the woods. From the first few pages you know how the story will end, but the journey is beautifully written and told with a biting and unapologetic style. Great characters, an interesting backdrop, a wild story, an excellent book!

    The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House, $27), recommended by Colin at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    This is the story of Cora and her escape northward from a plantation in Georgia. Her means is the Underground Railroad, a literal underground network of tunnels and rails. Each time she surfaces, Cora finds herself in a different cultural landscape, all strange and dangerous in their own ways. It is a narrative built on true horror, spun into a fascinating but awful dystopic alternate history. Completely brutal, ingenious, and powerful.

    The Undergound Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday $26.95), recommended by Tyler at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb

    A FALL 2016 OKRA PICK

    What is unusual and so appealing about Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is that the novel takes two issues that separately we’ve heard so much about—the European Jewish experience and the Jim Crow era south—and blends them together in a way that demonstrates a fresh perspective. I found it powerful and engaging.

    Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb (Other Press, $25.95), recommended by Stephanie at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL.

    Read the first chapter!

  • News of the World by Paulette Jiles

    Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd makes his living reading the newspapers from across the world to Texan audiences. In the winter of 1870, he accepts responsibility for returning a 10-year old girl, kidnapped by the Kiowa when she was six, to her family near San Antonio. This book has it all: stupendous writing, characters that get under your skin and burrow deep into your heart, great pacing, and an ending that makes you cry with joy and relief. I would recommend this book to a wide array of readers, including fans of westerns, historical fiction, road trip novels, and literary fiction. Also a great choice for book clubbers. Other authors that came to mind while I read were Ron Rash, Charles Portis, and Mary Doria Russell.

    News of the World by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow $22.99), recommended by Janet, Quail Ridge Books customer, Raleigh, NC.

  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

    If you've been in the store recently it's no secret that we've fallen in love with Ann Patchett's new novel, Commonwealth. This story of two families broken and reformed, parts blended and others shattered, feels like the book she was meant to write: complicated, intimate, ambitious, and uncomfortably true. The opening scene of the novel, a christening party at the Keating house, is such a pitch perfect rendition of the suburban '60s it could be used in virtual reality games. When an altered version of the two families moves to the Virginia Commonwealth I felt like Patchett had been secretly hanging out in my own Virginia neighborhood and was in on every conversation, gathering, and childhood excursion, back when we ran free all day, as long as we were home by supper. The story of this heartbreaking and lovable family, covering five decades, is as messy and real and beautifully told as one could wish.

    Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, ($27.99, Harper), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

    I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time! In A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Count Alexander Rostov, one of the great characters in modern fiction, reads like he leaped off the pages of a Tolstoy novel and landed in 1922, where he is placed under house arrest in Moscow's grand Metropol Hotel. The Count is elegant, sophisticated, erudite without being stuffy, wickedly funny, and in love with life. Towles takes you through 32 years of Russian history with a wonderful cast of characters, and a delightfully suspenseful plot. After 480 pages you will still mourn when you reach the end. Even better than his delightful debut, Rules of Civility.

    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking $27), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

    I can’t account for the historical accuracy of the story, but The Danish Girl is based on the true story of a young transgender woman (Lili) in the 1920s/30s.

    Born a male, Einar struggles with the secret of wanting to be a woman. His wife Greta encourages his transition and Einar becomes Lili. Lili was the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the 1930s. 

    It’s a beautifully written story about love, trust and self-discovery.
     
    The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Penguin) Recommended by Christina at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville, NC

  • Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

    A big, heartrending novel about the entangled lives of two women in 1920s New England, both mothers to the same unforgettable girl.

    In 1917 Beatrice Haven—the unwed teenage daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists—sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night to abandon her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree hoping the girl will be discovered by a poor Irish Catholic family led by headstrong Emma Murphy.

    Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing and post–World War I America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia. Bea is inadvertently reunited with Emma Murphy and the abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear—forever altering the fates of all three women.

    Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon (Viking) Recommended by Bookstore1Sarasota Sarasota FL

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger

    A light, funny read: think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Jane Austen in this wickedly funny debut novel. Soulless kicks off Carriger's new series set in an alternate 19th-century London that not only knows about vampires and werewolves, but accepts them into the upper tiers of society. There are 5 books in this series and all are worth reading!

    Soulless by Gail Carriger (Orbit) Recommended by Cynthia at Book Swap of Carrollwood Tampa FL

  • The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

    Set in Mississippi at the close of WWII, The Secret of Magic is the story of the tragic treatment of a returning black GI, which draws in noted civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall. But it also a story about the power of books and stories, especially those we encounter as children, to affect lives.

    I loved this book and will be recommending it to fans of The Help and Mudbound.

    The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson (Berkley) Recommended by Jill at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC 

  • Miss Jane by Brad Watson

    A subtle, yet powerful portrait of an extraordinary character, Miss Jane thrills with some of the most gorgeous prose I have ever encountered.

    Jane Chisholm is born with a genital defect that, in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century, somewhat limits her prospects for a “normal” life. Populated with lovingly wrought characters, sly humor, and keen observations of the human heart, Watson's novel is a beautiful and rare bird indeed.

    Miss Jane by Brad Watson (W. W. Norton & Company) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson

    Do not be fooled by the length of this book. It is short but powerful.

    It brought me right into the world of a young African-American girl and her friends in language that is both compact and lyrical. Publishers Weekly gave Another Brooklyn a well-deserved star review and said: Woodson…combines grit and beauty in a series of stunning vignettes, painting a vivid mural of what it was like to grow up African-American in Brooklyn during the 1970s…Woodson draws on all the senses to trace the milestones in a woman’s life and how her early experiences shaped her identity.

    It is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

    Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson (Amistad Press) Recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

    Written with surprising clarity and insight, this novel gives a heartbreaking account of life in England before the US joined in World War II.

    Mary North comes from an aristocratic family who detests her involvement teaching the children who have no way of escaping the violence in the city. Mary learns about love and trust through her time as a teacher and later as an ambulance driver helping victims of the relentless bombing of the city. Her boyfriend, Tom, and his roommate, Alistair, learn that doing your part in the war effort often becomes the greatest sacrifice.

    This novel will stay with you for a long time!

    Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

    A realistic look at life in 1890s New York. 

    Callaway's prose will awaken all your senses to everyday life in the growing city. She tells the story of Virginia, a writer in a family full of creativity. Virginia finds that you can never forget your first love and that finding love elsewhere can also be problematic.

    The society of artists that Ginny discovers helps her find a new focus on her life. Through several tragedies, she finds purpose in her writing even while losing those who are closest to her.

    The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway (Harper) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    The Second World War is about to begin.

    Hitler is rallying his forces and preparing to conquer the world. Yet, for Ada Smith, a different war is about to begin.

    Ada was born with a clubfoot. She cannot walk, and she is forced to stay in her families one-room apartment at all times. Ada doesn’t know
    what the world looks like outside of her little apartment. Life for Ada seems very bleak, until the mandatory evacuation of all London’s children is announced.

    Suddenly, Ada and her little brother Jamie are sent to the country with thousands of other Londoner children. When they arrive in Kent, Ada expects life to remain as it has always been, but instead Ada will discover a world she never knew existed.

    Ada will discover that she is not as broken as she seems, and with time and a lot of love she might be able to change the way the world sees her. A poignant tale set in war-time England of a little girl’s triumph over her disability and the life that she has always known.

    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial Books for Younger Readers) Recommended by Gretchen at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

    A wonderfully written story about a boy coming of age in the late 80s in Baton Rouge, LA. It is narrated by a 14-year-old boy who, along with all of the other young boys in the neighborhood, is infatuated with 15-year-old Lindy Simpson.

    Everything changes the summer Lindy is brutally raped, and no one is ever charged with the crime. Told with humor, some sadness, and at times wisdom beyond his 14 years, the story focuses on all of the suspects and shows how suspicion and violence can change lives forever.

    This debut author spins a tale that will grab you from the first page and keep you turning pages until the last.

    My Sunshine Awayby M.O. Walsh (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC.

    A 2016 Southern Book Prize Winner

  • The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

    This fabulous Southern debut novel is set in Kentucky during the 1980s, at the height of the coal mountaintop removal mining; it is a beautifully moving coming-of-age story with a touching grandfather-grandson relationship.

    The Secret Wisdom of the Earth  By Christopher Scotton (Grand Central Publishing) Recommended by Jill and Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson

    A sweeping novel about a young girl who lives with her father in Jerusalem prior to World War II She is eleven and has an absurd amount of freedom, and with that comes the potential for disaster. We follow Prue through her marriage and birth of her child. The focus of the book is the incredible way tragedies in childhood can impact your entire life. Parts of the novel are hard to read, but the brutality that exists in the world is brought to life by the author's words.

    A strong historical aspect but the main story is that of Prue's life. For any fan of wartime historical fiction.

    The Photographer's Wife By Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury USA) Recommended by Jackie at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

    I have read Kate Alcott's previous books, so I had high expectations for this novel.

    I believe this is my favorite of all the books. The view of Old Hollywood portrayed through the making of the film Gone With The Wind is captivating. Adding in the rise of the Nazi party and war in Europe gives a rare glimpse into two very separate places and how one impacts the other.

    Kate's female characters never disappoint and Julie is no exception. When you reflect on how truly unusual her path was for a Smith educated heiress she becomes even more engaging. Historical fiction fans, movie fans and readers who want to disappear into a book must read this book.

    A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott (Doubleday) Recommended by Jackie at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

    Dennis Lehane has given us another fascinating, and historical look into the rise of the mob. World Gone By takes place in Tampa and Cuba during WWII, and is a mesmerizing look at the honor and loyalty, revenge and retribution, that is an integral part of a mobster's way of life.

    Once again Lehane develops characters so rich and so complex that he has us liking and rooting for gangsters.

    World Gone By by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

    The Glass PalaceTo read a novel by the masterful Amitav Ghosh is to be swept along in a sea of facts, linguistic oddities, and almost fantastical characters on a grand scale. Elephants with anthrax! Exiled royalty! The teak forests of Burma, the rubber plantations of Malaysia, WWII, photography, love, trade, nationalism, family. A page-turning epic.

    The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (Random House). Recommended by Elese at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

    I loved Katy Simpson Smith's Free Men (Harper $26.99), a novel set in 1788, in what will become Alabama, and based on the true story of an escaped slave, a white orphan, and a Creek Indian who are on the run together after committing a serious crime. As in Smith's first novel, The Story of Land and Sea (Harper $15.99), set on the NC coast during the Revolution, and which I also loved, she demonstrates a remarkable ability to fully immerse the reader in a bygone era. Free Men is part crime thriller and part meditation on freedom and the personal cost of clashing societies in a new world. Joseph Ellis has called Smith "the most sophisticated historical novelist of her generation."

    Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith (Harper), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books | Raleigh, NC.

  • The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

    A fictionalized account of the real-life friendship between the writer, Truman Capote, and the socialite and fashion icon, Babe Paley.

    Paley and the Swans (Pamela Churchill, Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness) were the very definition of elegance, beauty and sophistication.During the 1950s and 1960s they lived a glamorous life at the pinnacle of New York society.

    This novel is delicious (like champagne in book form!) Gossipy and scandalous, ultimately it is a poignant look at the value of friendship and human connection.

    The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (Delacorte Press) Recommended by Abbe at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

    Ten-year-old Manami’s family is forced to relocate to a camp for Japanese Americans during WWII.

    She tries to sneak her dog, Yujin, into the camp, but is caught by the soldiers. Manami doesn’t speak in the prison village. She writes paper wishes that she hopes will sail through the air to her dog.

    This is a beautifully written story about family and survival, perfect for young readers interested in WWII history.

    Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Recommended by Rae Ann Parker at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

    A debut novel that takes place in 1944 Wisconsin. Money is short, food is rationed, and the cherry crop is due to be picked. Nearby is a camp for German POW’s. Charlotte persuades the local authorities to allow the prisoners to help with the harvest. A quick, enjoyable read.

    The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Kitty at Litchfield Books Pawley's Island SC

  • The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows

    A coming-of-age novel about 12-year-old Willa Romeyn, who learns some hard truths about her dad and the rest of her family during one hot summer in West Virginia.

    Set in the 1930s, the novel features an impressive cast of strong women who will learn how to fight for what they want despite the social mores of the times.

    This entertaining and often humorous novel will stay with you for a long time.

    The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows (Dial Press) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

    A beautiful novel of a special relationship between a Jewish woman and Japanese man that continues for years.

    Allende's brilliant prose brings the novel to life and expertly describes a relationship that is at times scandalous and forbidden but always enduring.

    The surprises at the end help make it a novel well-worth reading.

    The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (Atria Books) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • God's Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher

    When I started reading God's Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher I fell into a kind of reverie, induced by his mesmerizing descriptions of the northeast corner of Vermont, the beauty and simplicity of the language he uses, and the compelling story he tells.

    Told from the viewpoint of 14 year-old Jim Kennison in the 1950's, it's a coming-of-age story, a morality play, and an adventure story, full of events and people that are horrible and wonderful and sometimes very funny.

    God's Kingdom is one of those rare books, like To Kill a Mockingbird, that should become an American classic for all ages for many years to come.

    God's Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

    It takes a special talent to have a reader truly suspend disbelief, but Pulley succeeds spectacularly well in this debut.

    In 1880s London, Thaniel Steepleton is a telegraphist whose life is saved by a very timely pocket watch. When he meets its maker, Keita Mori, his entire life is upended and made more beautiful -- and dangerous.

    The clock is ticking on this new friendship, and Thaniel must use his ingenuity and previously untapped bravery to save Keita's life and his own future. Fans of David Mitchell and Erin Morgenstern will be intrigued, and I think it's safe to say that we can expect great things from Pulley.

    The Watchmaker of Filigree Streetby Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury USA ) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Villa America by Liza Klaussman

    Villa America is a beautifully crafted, thoroughly entertaining work of historical fiction about Sara and Gerald Murphy, part of the so-called Lost Generation of the 1920s.

    As ex-pats living in the south of France, the Murphys strove to create an idyllic world for themselves and their circle of friends that included Hemingway, Picasso and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This carefully researched book tells a story of the charmed, extravagant lives of these people who, despite their efforts to escape, found themselves vulnerable to the realities of misfortune and tragedy.

    Klaussmann is a gifted writer with the ability to give voice to the most fundamental truths of humanity. There were passages I read again and again, marveling at their beauty and insight.

    Villa America by Liza Klaussmann (Little Brown and Company) Recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen

    Edgar, aka Eggert Furst, aka Comrade Parts, is one of the most intriguing and pathetic villains I've come across.

    Okasanen's latest novel, like her international best-seller Purge, delves into the political tumult of little-known Estonia, where the overly ambitious Edgar adopts a new identity, while selling out his friends and colleagues, with each regime swing between the Red Army and the Nazis.

    His total lack of conscience and increasing paranoia of exposure by the two people who know him – his alcoholic estranged wife and his freedom-fighting cousin Roland – add just the right hint of dark comedy.

    When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Knopf Publishing Group) Recommended by Vicki at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday

    This utterly compelling, often heartbreaking story of war and lost love is told through a fascinating dual viewpoint.

    We see Poxl West through the eyes of his fifteen-year-old nephew, Eli Goldstein, in 1986, and through Poxl's own memoir of World War II. Eli is in thrall to the romantic war hero that comes alive in his uncle's pages, but soon finds that the complexities of one person's life may hold more than one truth. Torday has crafted a remarkable tale that shines a light on nothing less than storytelling itself.

    The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge BooksRaleigh NC

  • Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

    Inspector of the Dead is an absolutely riveting historical thriller.

    I'd not read one of David Morrell's mysteries before, and now I want to devour them all. I'm even going to check out the original Opium-Eater to learn more about his fascinating protagonist, Thomas De Quincey.

    Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell (Mulholland Books) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

    Paula McLain does an exceptional job of capturing Beryl Markham and her singular life, as well as painting a vivid portrait of Kenya and a host of other noteworthy characters, including Karen Blixen, Dennys Finch-Hatton and the two British princes, Harry and David.

    I've been a fan of Beryl Markham's since reading her memoir, West With the Night, in the '80s, and have also read whatever I could about her. This is a beautifully written, authentic novel of the acclaimed horse trainer, pioneer aviator, and gifted writer, about whom Hemingway famously wrote -She can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers...it is really a bloody wonderful book.

    Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (Ballantine) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

    In this companion novel to Atkinson's bestseller Life After Life she tells the story of Ursula's brother Teddy, the favorite of his mother, his sisters - and, I have to believe, most readers.

    Teddy's story is no less moving than Ursula's, skipping backward and forward in time from his dotage to his childhood and times in-between. The heart of the story is WWII and Teddy's years as an RAF pilot, making forays deep into German territory, an experience that will color the rest of his long life.

    A wonderful novel that totally immerses you in a different world and at the same time makes you question many things about your own world.

    A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown and Company) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Neverhome by Laird Hunt

    Understanding that her more delicate husband would never survive the Civil War, Constance Thompson takes up the moniker Ash, disquises herself as a man and joins the Union army in his stead.

    Inspired by true stories of women who wore blue and gray, readers should not dismiss Neverhome as one novel among many.

    Neverhome by Laird Hunt (Little, Brown and Company) Recommended by Lyn at Square Books Oxford MS

  • Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

    Epitaph: A Novel of the OK Corral by Mary Doria Russell

    For two weeks while reading Epitaph, I lived in 1880s Arizona and came to know the people who lived there.

    Russell is a master at putting her meticulous research into creating a vivid picture of time and place, and brilliantly bringing into life her characters. This book continues with the story started in Doc, focusing here on Wyatt Earp. There is so much more to this man than we have seen in movies. If you are a fan of westerns you will love this book and if you are a fan of books that completely absorb, Epitaph will more than reward.

    Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell (Ecco Press) Recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

    This surprising new Russian novel by an Irish theater director knocked my socks off!

    With a maturity beyond his years, McKeon exposes the Chernobyl disaster through a luminous cast of characters – the teenage farm boy living 10 km from the reactor, the brilliant and conscientious young surgeon recruited to the scene, and the estranged wife and former journalist suppressed into an assembly line factory job – in this rare glimpse at a waning empire behind the Iron Curtain.

    All That Is Solid Melts Into Air By Darragh McKeon ($14.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Vicki at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • Surfmen by Charles Marshall

    We all know about the US Coast Guard and many of us know about the predecessor, the United States Lifesaving Service. But how many of us have thought about how those rescue men became organized?

    Marshall does a wonderful job illuminating the past of the heroes of the coast. Cape Hatteras historical fiction based on fact and full of high adventure.

    Surfmen By Charles Marshall ($19, Fireship Press), recommended by Buxton Village Books Buxton NC

  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson

    Lila is a good reminder of why I love Marilynne Robinson's rich writing.

    The main character, Lila, becomes the wife of the Reverend Ames (a wonderfully gentle and sympathetic man who appears in Robinson's other two books set in Gilead). When we first meet Lila, she is an untamed creature, but through the love of her rescuer, Doll, and Ames, she matures and finds a sense of security.

    Lila By Marilynne Robinson ($26, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

    In 1953, Boy Novak runs away from her home on the Lower East Side of New York and ends up in a small town in Massachusetts.

    She marries Arturo Whitman, a widower with an adored daughter named Snow, and the three live happily until the birth of Bird, whose dark skin exposes the Whitmans as African-Americans passing for white.

    Oyeyemi is a stunning talent who examines the disparity in how we perceive ourselves and how we allow others to perceive us. Boy, Snow, Bird is a bewitching and beguiling tale with unforgettable characters.

    Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ($27.95, Riverhead Books), recommended by Amanda, Inkwood Books Tampa, FL.

  • The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

    I love the quirky, eccentric characters in Fannie Flagg’s books, and this one is full of them. At 59 (or is she 60?), Sookie finds she is not who she thought she was and her subsequent search for answers takes her away from small-town Alabama life to Poland, Wisconsin, Texas and California and back in time to the World War II era and a little known group of independent and brave women who gave their all to the war effort as pilots. Comical situations as well as zany, off-beat personalities give heart and warmth to Sookie’s emotional conundrum. It is a tribute to family, friendship and the strength of the human spirit. A heart-warming feel-good read.

    The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion By Fannie Flagg ($27, Random House), recommended by Pat, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • City of Women by David Gillham

    This debut novel is a thriller, a love story, a story of courage and the many unknown heroes who made life and death decisions in the face of the horror that was Berlin in 1943.

    Gillham's language is stunning and his characters are real, with all their flaws and all their bravery. This is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

    City of Women By David R. Gillham ($16, Berkley Trade), recommended by Rene, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yak; Lark Pien

    Part historical novel and part fantasy, Boxers & Saints are companion graphic novels re-imagining the Boxer Rebellion. Yang's art style is cartoonishly simple and colorful, in deliberate contrast to the messy, multifaceted events he recounts. Recommended for teen readers and up.

    Boxers & Saints Boxed Set By Gene Luen Yang ($34.99, First Second), recommended by Rachel, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

    In Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah turns to fiction to tell the  story of a group of villagers who return home at the end of war to reclaim their lives and culture. This is a book of hope, longing, large corruption and small mercies, from a master storyteller.

    Radiance of Tomorrow By Ishmael Beah ($14, Sarah Crichton Books), recommended by Sarah, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

    The second book of the Neapolitan Novels series is a rich portrait of two girls and their friendship.

    Beginning in the 1960s when the more academically gifted Lila marries instead of continuing her education, we follow Elena through her success. Psychologically acute, this is a great work of modern fiction, and good news, there will be one more book.

    The Story of a New Name By Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions) Recommended by Sandra at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Pickett's Charge by Charles McNair

    McNair’s prose begins thin and lapping, then gradually builds like a hurricane crescendo that carries the reader on a whitewater crest toward a conclusion that is as unexpected as it is dreadful.

    From the top of that mountainous wave of skillfully drawn landscapes, familiarly detailed characters, and painfully wrought human interactions, we get a glimpse, through Threadgill’s last steps on earth, of what might have been, had Threadgill--had all the Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs of the world--chosen to throw a barbecue instead of launch a Civil War.

    Pickett's Charge by Charles McNair ($18.95, Livingston Press), recommended by Connie, Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • Guests On Earth by Lee Smith


    Do not let anyone tell you that this is another book about Zelda Fitzgerald.

    This book is deeper and better.

    Yes, Zelda makes an appearance, several in fact, but she is a peripheral character. This book is really about Evalina, a young woman born to curious circumstances in New Orleans, and sent to a progressive mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina. This book is about the inhabitants of Evalina's life and about the music that connects us all.

    Guests on Earth by Lee Smith (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), recommended by The Country Bookshop Southern Pines NC.

  • The Tilted World by Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly

    I grew up knowing about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 but this book brings that time to life.

    You can feel the unceasing rain and the mud and the growing fear of the flood coming their way. In this setting we meet a federal agent and a bootlegger brought together by an orphaned baby: a story of seemingly ordinary people who find hope and deliverance where they least expect it--in each other.

    The Tilted World By Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly (William Morrow & Company), recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

    The Last BanquetIn the pre-dawn of the French Revolution, Jean-Marie d’Aumont strives to wrest an ounce of immortality from every experience, taste, and sensation this world has to offer. From his rescue as a child at the foot of a dung heap to his appointment as Lord Master of the Menagerie, d’Aumont’s life is "built almost entirely on a foundation of events colliding." Grimwood takes us on a tour through French history, from the death of the Sun King to the Revolution, but at its heart The Last Banquet is a beautiful--and, at times, macabre--meditation on the inexorable march of history and man’s struggle to leave an indelible mark before his own time is spent.

    The Last Banquet: A Novel, by Jonathan Grimwood ($26.95, Europa Editions), recommended by Amanda, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund

    The Fountain of St. James CourtThis is a fascinating tale of two women artists — writer Kathryn Callaghan in this century and painter Elizabeth Vigée-Le Brun who lived during the French Revolution. Vigée-Le Brun was a real-life portraitist who included Marie Antoinette among her subjects. Callaghan is 70 and brings the wisdom of her age to the story. Naslund offers a very perceptive look at two women as they progress through their art and their lives. A great read!

    The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

    Quiet DellAward-winning author Phillips has been haunted by this story for 40 years. Her novel is based on the murder of the Chicago widow Asta Eicher and her three children in 1931. Lonely and out of money, Asta corresponds with a seemingly moneyed and well-mannered stranger named Harry Powers. She is lured to West Virginia, where, within a few days, the family is brutally murdered. Emily Thornhill is the Chicago journalist who becomes deeply involved in solving the sensational case, during which she falls into a passionate but problematic love affair. Phillips portrays the Eicher family so charmingly, especially the youngest child, Annabelle, that our horror and outrage are tenfold. This earns a place on the shelf with such classics as Night of the Hunter and In Cold Blood.

    Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips ($28, Scribner) recommended by Lisa, Square Books, Oxford, MS.