Read This Now
What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!
RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
The middle-grade fiction genre is really taking off! I picked up this book to give to a friend and ended up devouring it in a few hours, so now I'm even more excited to give it to her. The poetic structure was brilliant and moving; I think this is a great introduction for kids to poetry and narrative poetry in particular. The story itself was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, and I will admit I cried quite a few times! Getting to know Jude was such an honor and a pleasure, and Warga did a beautiful job of making her come to life.
In our current political atmosphere, and in the wake of the terror attack on the New Zealand mosques, this story is even more important than ever. I hope it will encourage kids to learn more about their Middle Eastern and Muslim brothers and sisters, and that they will begin to foster an awareness of the world outside America. It certainly had that effect on me. I don't give tens freely, but this touching story deserves every point!
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga ($16.99*, Balzer + Bray), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
Richard Roper's debut is utterly delightful. I was spellbound from the very first page. Andrew's job is a sensitive one: when someone dies at home alone, Andrew is called to literally dig through personal effects and determine if there are any next of kin from scraps of paper or old holiday cards. Dealing daily with the dearly departed combined with Andrew's obsession with model trains, dysfunctional office mates, and an estranged sister, results in a compelling read. Funny, smart, sad, Roper's How Not to Die Alone is just wonderful.
How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
I am not normally a sci-fi fan but I loved The Martian so decided to give Vessel a try, and boy am I glad I did. It was an amazing look at NASA and the space program including protocols and hardships, and the lives and personal struggles of astronauts. Commander Catherine Wells was on a six-year mission to a newly discovered planet that was believed to be able to support life, when things went horribly wrong. Contact was lost and eventually all were assumed dead. Nine years after the mission was launched Catherine returned home–alone and with no memory of what happened. Vessel is a fast paced very readable novel with strong characters that gives a fantastic look at what could be reality and not fiction in a not-so-distant future.
Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols ($27.00*, Atria/Emily Bestler Books/Alloy Entertainment), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Michael Parker eloquently captures the desolate beauty of the Oklahoma prairie in prose that is somehow both searing and lyrical as he tells the story of two teenage sisters in the early 1900's. The pair are deeply close, although they couldn't be more different. Lorena is sensible, Elise is always lost in flights of fancy. When a series of events leads them to realize they have feelings for the same man, their young teacher, the two are driven apart by years and hundreds of miles. This not a sad story. It is a tale of abiding love infused with charm, wit, and bitingly humorous dialogue. I was enchanted, and to put it simply, I loved how this book made me feel.
Prairie Fever by Michael Parker ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Steph, Jarrell, and Quadir are best friends, going to high school in Brooklyn, when Steph is murdered in the street. Jarrell and Quadir, along with Jasmine, Steph's sister, are left wondering who killed Steph and why. When they discover boxes upon boxes of CDs and tapes of Steph's rap songs, they decide that they are too good to remain unheard. They also figure they can raise money and hire a detective to find out what happened to Steph since the police don't seem to care to find out.
This story takes place in the late 90s and is told through the point of view of Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell with a few flashbacks from Steph. Fans of urban fiction, 90s rap, and mystery alike will all enjoy this one.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson ($17.99*, Katherine Tegen Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
Furyborn was incredible. Kingsbane is even better! The second novel has even more magic, cliffhangers, and romance. So much packed into this book I want to sit with the author and understand how she can possibly make all this come together so eloquently. Already excited for the next one in this trilogy. This is a wild ride.
Kingsbane by Claire Legrand ($18.99*, Sourcebooks Fire), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.
In his last week before starting first grade, a boy and his family set out for a week long camping trip. As they begin to unpack and set up camp, a tiger steps into the clearing. Thin but beautiful, the tiger asks the boy if there is possibly a tent for him. Through the week, the boy and the tiger hike to new places, paddle the lake, fish and watch the stars. They do things neither would risk on their own. And when the week is over, the two must go their own way, both better for their time together.
Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, John Rocco (Illustrator) ($17.99*, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Karen Russell's latest collection of short stories are as bizarre, haunted and exquisitely crafted as I hoped they would be. The collection begins with "The Prospectors," wherein two young women attempt to attend an elegant affair and end up dancing with a group of dead boys. In the titular story, a new mother nurses a devil every night and all the while Russell is dissecting the postpartum experience with grace and humor. And in what is possibly my favorite of the collection, "The Gondoliers," about a girl with the qualities of a bat who navigates a dangerous, drowned new world, Russell proves that no one can write south Florida quite like her.
Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.
Some memoirs transcend the author's experience and become universal. I always thought of those as the good ones. Then I read Jayson Greene's memoir of loss and grief and was forced to confront the fullness of his individual humanity in a way I haven't experienced before. Grief is distinctly personal and Greene's story of the death of his two year old child is simply unfathomable to me, yet his honesty and willingness to sit in the fearfulness of life resonated deeply.
Once More We Saw Stars is a wonderfully written memoir that connects on an almost primitive level.
Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene ($25.00*, Knopf), recommended by Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.
Wax has delivered a fun, touching summer read that takes place in the Outer Banks of North Caroline with a smattering of scenes in our own town of Richmond (including a nice shout out to Fountain Bookstore)!
Lauren and Brianna, former best friends who have since fallen out, are approaching their 40th birthdays several hundred miles apart. Once as close as sisters, they now no longer speak until Lauren returns home with her new fiance to try on the wedding dress that has been in her family for generations. The girls are forced to confront some difficult decisions and secrets from their past while dealing with current family stresses.
Told in the voice of both girls plus Kendra, the mom who loves them both as her own, this story is sweet and easily devoured.
My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.
Nedda Papas is eleven and space-obsessed in Easter, Florida, when Challenger explodes in the sky overhead, sending shock waves through the small NASA-adjacent town. Nedda’s father, a scientist grieving the death of his infant son, the passing of his daughter’s youth, and the degeneration of his hands, has been conducting fragile and dangerous experiments, sent over the edge and altering the fabric of time in wondrous and tragic ways after Challenger’s demise.
Years later, Nedda has achieved her dream of spaceflight, hurtling toward a distant planet when a dire malfunction causes her to reckon with her past in order to preserve the possibility for a future. Light from Other Stars is a thrilling journey through space and time and a deeply moving exploration of the bond between parent and child.
Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler ($27.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.
I have always enjoyed Jaci Burton's books but was glad to see her step into a new setting outside of sports. This romance with a firehouse setting really works. There is just enough romance and drama to keep the book interesting and the story's incorporation of juvenile homelessness and the foster care system adds depth. I was hooked until the end!
Hot to the Touch by Jaci Burton ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
What a catch this book is! Every story tugs at your emotions as you enjoy a ride upstream. In a world that is surviving on espresso we all need to remember to stop, breathe, pick up a fishing pole, and tune into nature and the quiet you need to fish. This original book is a must have for every home.
Gather at the River edited by David Joy with Eric Rickstad ($16.95*, Hub City Press), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.
I had hoped that reading Casey Cep's Furious Hours would be like listening to some of my favorite true crime podcasts (S-Town, anyone?), and I was not disappointed. The book weaves together the stories of a black reverend suspected of killing off his family members for insurance fraud, the lawyer who defended him in court countless times, and Harper Lee, who had planned to write a book about them. Equal parts biography, history, and reporting, Furious Hours is the rare nonfiction book that actually reads like fiction.
Furious Hours by Casey Cep ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, VA.
I almost regret reading this, it was so good. It was so exceptional, it took a solid week for me to be ready to read anything else. I just kept picking it back up and re-reading. I finally had to give it to another bookseller on staff so I could move on.
Chiang's stories are the reason I read. Each one is a perfectly cut gem. It's as if by the act of reading, you become light and pass through the gems and feel yourself reflected, refracted, split apart and turned into someone new. Each story makes your brain all bendy, even the ones that feel like they have existed for hundred of years. You'll find fantastic tales of time travel, meditations on the true nature of consciousness, even thoughts on parenting. Elegant without seams, I highly recommend this collection to fans new and old.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
A great book to get you through the 162-game season, Bill Pennington's book did what I had previously believed to be impossible: made me care about the Yankees. Chumps To Champs is full of big characters with even larger personalities, from legendary Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to quietly effective--and hugely under-appreciated--Buck Showalter. I will never be a Yankees fan but I am a big fan of this book.
Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the '90s Dynasty by Bill Pennington ($28.00*, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
Stuart Gibbs's books fly off our shelves constantly. After kids, teachers, and librarians recommended him, I finally picked up Spy School and promptly fell in love. That's why I am so excited for this seventh installment in the series. This is James Bond for middle grade readers, with constant action and humor. They are so fun to read I am not sure kids realize they are also learning about dealing with bullies, standing up for yourself, the importance of friendship, and all the things a non-spy middle schooler learns. This is a perfect start to summer reading.
Spy School British Invasion ($17.99*, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
Lauren has just given birth to twin baby boys when she's awakened in the night, alone in the hospital, by singing. In the bay next to hers is a disheveled woman with a basket who wants to trade Lauren's babies for her own. Lauren locks herself in the bathroom with her own children and calls the police. But when the police send the hospital staff to Lauren, there's no one there and nothing on CCTV to show that anyone ever was there. It's all attributed to Lauren's fragile mental state.
This book is a blend of the currently popular domestic thriller and supernatural horror. It has just the right amount of creepiness and action and fans of either genre will enjoy it.
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding ($26.99*, Crooked Lane Books), recommended by Bookmiser, Inc., Roswell, GA.
Like the writing of David Joy or Taylor Brown? Then you'll want to check out Brian Panowich. Panowich's Southern crime fiction is so very entertaining. Despite being sheriff, Clayton Burroughs is also the last living son of the Bull Mountain crime family which means everyone wants a piece of him. You'll find yourself rooting for the good guys who may actually be bad guys. Don't let Panowich's epilogue sneak up on you in this one. It's mind-blowing.
Like Lions by Brian Panowich ($26.99*, Minotaur Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis ($16.99*, Bloomsbury Children's Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
Family relationships are often complicated and misunderstood especially between mother and daughter in laws, but do they usually end in murder? This is the question to be answered in Hepworth's masterfully plotted novel of families and expectations each has of the other. Lucy yearns for a mother figure since her mother died when she was young. Diana seems to be the total opposite of what Lucy hoped for in a mother-in-law. Lucy begins to believe that Diana doesn't even like her at all. When Diana, a prominent and very wealthy member of the community is found dead of an apparent suicide and the police begin to believe foul play we finally see the characters as they really are. Did Diana finally push Lucy too far? Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth ($27.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.