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RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
Warning: This plot just might give you whiplash. Not to say that Jackson is ever predictable, but this is a whole 'nother level of WTF. Intelligently written and delightfully witty, it begins as a top-shelf suburban thriller, but then kicks up a notch. Protagonist Amy is likable and smart, but keeping a terrible secret or three. Our anti-heroine, Roux, is a real piece of work, and you can really understand Amy's strange attraction to her. I wasn't sure whether I wanted Amy to beat her or to BE her...until the end, when it becomes crystal clear. Along the way, we are treated to some lovely writing in praise of SCUBA diving, early motherhood, a genuine friendship, a reckless neighbor, and a deep, dark secret that threatens to upend Amy's happy world. And all the trouble begins with a boozy book club. It's just delicious reading.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.
As a North Alabama resident, I was delighted to learn about this new novel set right here at home. Wicklow, Alabama, is a little town that has a made-up name but feels oh-so-familiar. The southern food, characters, and community all drew me right in, and I fell in love with this charming story about a young woman who comes to Wicklow to take over her Granny Zee's café upon her death. Like Anna Kate, many of the charcters in this little town are struggling with grief of one kind or another, and yet this book isn't sad. It shows the wonderful way that a close-knit community can come together to lift each other up. The novel blends magical realism with true southern storytelling, and I can't wait to share this book with readers near and far. Sit down with some blackberry tea and a piece of pie, and let this novel feed your soul.
Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber ($24.99*, Forge Books), recommended by The Snail on the Wall, Huntsville, AL.
Jade War does absolutely everything you want from a sequel: expanding the world, raising the stakes, and further developing characters I loved from Jade City. Set largely in the fictional East-Asian inspired island of Kekon, Fonda Lee’s novel is an epic fantasy crime drama following the struggles of the Kaul family, leaders of the No Peak Clan, as they fight to maintain control of the island and it’s magical jade trade that grants users enhanced abilities.
Just like the first book, Jade War reads like a glorious mash-up of The Godfather and classic Hong Kong crime films; full of intense action, betrayal, and an expansive cast of memorable characters. Kekon and the capital city of Janloon feel vibrantly gritty and it’s a credit to Lee’s writing and worldbuilding that the cast never feels overstuffed and I never got bogged down in the details of trying to remember who is with what clan or the mechanics of the jade "magic." A suspenseful, barn-burner of a novel and I cannot wait to see how Lee brings this to a thundering conclusion in Book Three.
Jade War by Fonda Lee ($26.00*, Orbit), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
I was so nervous about a sophomore slump, but hooray! — there was nothing to be worried about.The Lager Queen of Minnesota is as delightful and well-written as Stradal's debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and I'm consistently impressed with his ability to make you deeply care about a place and its people. I’m a teetotaler from the South, and now I want to move to Minnesota and drink beer, so... I think it’s safe to say I loved this book. (No previous knowledge or appreciation of lager required.)
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA.
What a charming and utterly lovable book! I kept finding myself grinning and laughing out-loud (when I wasn't cringing at the content that was WAY too relatable). I recommend this for anyone looking for a fun romp through dating in your mid-twenties and anyone interested in learning a new perspective on Indian culture.
Under mounting pressure to get married and "start" her life, twenty-six year old English teacher Leila makes a deal with her parents -- if she can't find her own husband in three months, her parents can arrange a marriage for her. Thus we tumble with Leila through awkward first dates, ambush dates, speed dating, online dating and more as she attempts to find her Bollywood romance before her parents can set her up with a boring (or worse! OLD!) mate. Along the way, Leila learns more about herself, her culture, and her family.
The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem ($15.99*, William Morrow Paperbacks), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
This fun and exciting scifi thriller is a page-turner and the perfect weekend read! What happened to the crew of the spaceship House of Wisdom? No one really knows. All of its crew members died within a 24-hour period. The government states that a lethal virus was intentionally released by a crew member. The ship is under quarantine as it’s not safe to go onboard. But someone is going to try. A small group from one of Earth’s desert cults is planning to board, clear and cleanup the ship and take it for themselves. They have even planned to kidnap the one survivor of the virus, Jas Bhattacharya, the son of the ship’s engineer, who can insure their entrance to the ship. But the government was wrong about what killed the crew.
And the small group boarding the ship is about to find out that what killed the crew is still there on the ship, waiting for another chance.
Salvation Day by Kali Wallace ($26.00*, Berkley), recommended by The Little Bookshop, Midlothian, VA.
Late Migrations is a gorgeous, somber treasure of a book. Death and its many forms permeate Margaret Renkl’s meditative work; from the death of her father to the death of a small bird in the road, grief is a constant companion throughout these pages. But the sorrow never becomes overwhelming; in fact, each passage takes on a unique, bittersweet wisdom that can only be gained by experiencing loss. Renkl’s part memoir, part nature writing, and part essay collection is a such a unique reading experience, and one I will remember and recommend for many years to come.
Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl ($24.00*, Milkweed Editions), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.