Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week


What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!

Browse the Read This Now Index!


RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

Hill Women by Cassie ChambersAs someone raised in West Virginia, Hill Women struck a particular chord with me. Cassie Chambers delivers an honest narrative about the challenges of life in one of the poorest regions of the country while giving voices to the women who lifted up her life and the lives of those around her. Highlighting their unwavering work ethic, generosity, and fight for the younger generations, Chambers shows how growing up with the influence of these women in her family helped formed the person she became, eventually being educated at an Ivy League school and returning to the region to help provide legal assistance to the very communities in which she was raised. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the Appalachian region and for readers who enjoy insightful biographies like Educated.

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers (PRICE*, PUBLISHER), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

The Night Country

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Night Country by Melissa Albert
Flatiron Books | List Price: $18.99.


Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

The Hazel Wood was merely the introduction to the dark and sinister world of fairy tales that Albert so lovingly crafted, and The Night Country is the firing of the cannon and the explosion and aftermath that follows. Alice, as you know, was left stranded, essentially, in the real world, with nothing to really anchor herself to a life worth living. So if you're like me, you wanted to know what was next, you wanted to see Alice at least have some sort of happiness to her name, no matter how dark the story is meant to be. And Albert certainly delivers on everything you could ever want as a fan of the first book. It's a perfect middle and end to this world that we've adored since 2018, and maybe will continue to enjoy! However Melissa Albert sees fit, I'm positive she'll build us a story that's worthy of our wildest childhood dreams.


Square Books, Oxford, MS

Albert's world of unforgiving fairy tales swells to the perfect crescendo in this sequel to The Hazel Wood. Alice, an ex-Story, is trying her best to re-assimilate to a world that no longer feels familiar, while Ellery Finch is off exploring lands unknown. Alice may have left the Hinterlands behind, but the Hinterlands isn't done with her, and as other ex-Stories are picked off one by one, Alice will have to find the end of her tale, come ice, feather, or bone. The Night Country is a star-spun world of horror and wonder you'll want to live in forever.


Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

From the first page to the last, Melissa Albert's debut novel The Hazel Wood had me in its thrall and I've been pressing it into the hands of every fairy tale enthusiast who walks into the bookshop since! Well, Melissa Albert must be made of magic, because The Night Country is somehow even more thrilling, delightful, creepy, and full of surprises than its predecessor. Having escaped the Hinterland with the help of Ellery Finch, Alice Proserpine is back in gritty New York City, the only problem is that so are the other denizens of that dark world—and someone's murdering them one by one. Meanwhile, Ellery's trying to find a way out of the dying Hinterland himself…and a way back to Alice too. The Night Country builds off the world of The Hazel Wood beautifully, becoming a door to a vast, wonderfully constructed universe that gleams with magic like a blade glinting in the dark.


Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

If you enjoyed The Hazel Wood, don't miss following Melissa Albert into the dark and harrowing depths of The Night Country. In this new genre-bending novel, while expanding the universe we last encountered, Albert has managed to stretch the limitations of story itself. True thrills, horror, mystery, and more of the original fairytales we've come to expect await in this brilliant follow-up.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

The Night Country skirts between dark fantasy and horror. It takes the rich world building of The Hazel Wood and somehow makes it thicker, more viscous, until the reader is inevitably tangled up with Alice and Emory and the less than savory denizens of the Hinterlands. I loved every minute of it.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara PrescottThis is the story of a covert operation to smuggle the banned manuscript of Doctor Zhivago out of the Soviet Union and into print. It’s a story of art and power, identity and trust. Perfect for fans of The Americans or anyone who likes a page-turner.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran FoerA philosophical meditation on climate change, We Are the Weather is Jonathan Safran Foer's impassioned plea to readers to heed the signs of climate change and recommends a plant-based diet (until dinner) as the single action most individuals can take to make a personal impact. Using key moments from history - like the blackouts of WWII--combined with his own personal struggles and conscience, Foer's latest work will leave you unsettled, emotionally charged, and motivated to make whatever changes you can to help preserve what's left of the planet we call home.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer ($25.00*, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. AndersonGet your TBR (To Be Read) list out, it’s about to double! Monster, She Wrote is a guide to the amazing female pioneers of horror, speculative fiction, and to the women propelling these genres today. Organizing the authors you love into time period and theme, Monster, She Wrote builds a comprehensive history on how women have impacted the genre.

For each author profiled authors Kroger and Anderson give another with comparable works and styles. Love gothic novelist Margret Cavendish? Try some selected works from Regina Maria Roche or Ann Radcliffe. With so many more wonderful authors to explore, Murder, She Wrote is sure to be a staple reference for seasoned horror fans and newcomers alike!

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. Anderson ($19.99*, Quirk Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

City of Beasts by Corrie WangIt can get all too easy to joke about the patriarchy and its toxic effects because the jokes help cover up the pain that goes along with a deliberate, toxic system. Somehow, the brilliant Corrie Wang has crafted a novel that actually challenges that notion while delivering a page-turning adventure filled with heart, humor, and radical empathy.

City of Beasts brings fresh life to the post-apocalyptic YA landscape with characters who just won’t quit and that you’ll have a hard time letting go of. Glori Rhodes is a force of nature, and the cast of characters that flank her are captivating and pulsating.

City of Beasts by Corrie Wang ($17.99*, Freeform), recommended by Itinerant Literate Books, North Charleston, SC.

Drink Like a Geek: Cocktails, Brews, and Spirits for the Nerd in All of Us by Jeff CiolettiDo you or someone you love like sci-fi? Comic books? Wizards? Genre TV? B-movies? Videogames? Cosplay and conventions? Space?!? Let's say this person (or you) happen to also like cocktails? Let's just get this out of the way first: YOU ARE MY PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND THIS IS YOUR BOOK!!!!!!!! Butter Beer (for grown-ups only, folks), The Doctor, James Bond, Star Trek (Romulan Ale, anyone?) are all covered and loads more.

Drink Like a Geek: Cocktails, Brews, and Spirits for the Nerd in All of Us by Jeff Cioletti ($19.95*, Mango), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

My Jasper June by Laurel SnyderA summer story soaked in magic, My Jasper June is a beautiful exploration of friendship, loss, and family. Feeling neglected by her parents and lost in her own sadness, Leah finds an instant kindred spirit in Jasper and for the first time, begins to see the luster in life again. Jasper also knows a thing or two about abandonment, and as the girls bond over one magical summer, they realize they can't hide from reality forever. Luckily, Snyder is the perfect writer to tackle these tough subjects and does so with astounding grace and brilliance. My Jasper June is soon to be a beloved classic of book clubs everywhere.

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder ($16.99*, Walden Pond Press), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

 A Summer 2019 Okra Pick

Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? by Brock ClarkeInspired by Graham Greene’s Travels with my Aunt, Brock Clarke’s new novel is a delightful journey (physically and emotionally) that constantly keeps us guessing at the final destination. This can be said of the narrator, Calvin Bledsoe, as well as the reader. At his mother’s funeral, Calvin meets an aunt he never knew he had, and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery he didn’t know he needed. A thoughtful coming-of-age story wrapped in a screwball mystery caper, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? may inspire questions of your own. It may inspire you to learn about John Calvin, the pellet stove, or even small animal pornography. It will most certainly make you smile.

Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? by Brock Clarke ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

The Passengers by John MarrsYikes, y'all. This is a gripping suspenseful tale of what happens when autonomous cars go wrong. Eight people are in transit to various places when their routes get canceled and a strange voice announces that they have a little less than three hours to live. There is a jury of their peers set to choose who lives and who dies (and in what order) and this is just as grisly as you'd expect. As we get to know each passenger, we learn that each has dark secrets and the jury is left to learn their secrets and decide who merits saving. Don't read this if you have somewhere to be. You won't want to put it down!

The Passengers by John Marrs ($26.00*, Berkley), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy LefteriLefteri has written a powerful story of a family who has suffered mightily during the Syrian war as they watched their city and country being decimated. Their journey to escape the devastation is in itself a harrowing experience. Beautifully written and heartbreaking, Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife Afra struggle to maintain hope as forces pull them apart. It was difficult to read but so poignant and I couldn’t put it down! This story speaks to the power of love, loss and the strength of family.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ($27.00*, Ballantine Books), recommended by Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

Everything Inside by Edwidge DanticatEverything Inside transported me into the distant, unknown worlds of Haitian, Caribbean, and Haitian-American culture. Each story explores the tenuousness of relationships--how things can change in an instant, or how a fuzzy detail about someone we feel close to becomes clearer and more telling in retrospect. These are beautifully written and moving that will linger with me in the weeks and months to come.

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Bards Alley, Vienna, VA.

Dead Voices by Katherine ArdenKatherine Arden tells a great spooky story, one that remembers the personhood of her characters, no matter their age. Genuinely scary without being too scary or leaving her characters agentless against the dark and terrifying. I look forward to the next in the series!

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden ($16.99*, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers), recommended by Sundog Books, Santa Rosa Beach, FL.

The Warlow Experiment by Alix NathanTerrific. Grade A-plus historical fiction. Customers who are champing at the bit for Mantel's next can be quietened for a bit with The Warlow Experiment. I love this mix of research and imagining, and I toast Nathan for taking that long-ago advertisement and fanning it out for us so well.

The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan ($26.95*, Doubleday), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiIn the follow up to his essential Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi has given us another indispensable book in How to Be an Antiracist. Blending personal memoir with history, social science, law, and social justice, Kendi continues to reframe and redefine what it means to be “antiracist” in the world today. Accessibly written and constantly engaging, How to Be an Antiracist is a perfect book for our historical moment and one that I hope will continue to reshape my own and others’ thinking.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi ($27.00*, One World), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy ColbertThis is a story I think many teens will relate to. There is so much pressure to achieve and succeed now for kids, and it starts so early. In addition, one in three Americans is personally affected by addiction. On top of that, every family has its own secrets and challenges. And then you think about how much harder it is to achieve when you start life as a person of color in an incredibly prejudiced and segregated society. Birdie's story is complex, but when you boil it down, it's the normal story of a present-day girl trying to grow up in America.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert ($17.99*, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The Last Widow by Karin SlaughterWOW! I think the last few times I have read Karin's new books I think they are the best yet. This book is no exception to that pattern. The plot of an epidemic is incredibly real and the continued unfolding of Will and Sara's relationship during extreme duress is spellbinding. The focus on things, like domestic terrorism, that are sometimes swept under the rug are front and center in this book. I have a hard time imagining how much research was involved to reach the level of detail in so any complex medical and scientific situations in this book. The pace is fast and if you skip a page you will miss something important. There are perfect examples of evil hiding in plain sight, but also wonderful examples of sacrifice and heroism. Don't miss this journey with Will and Sara.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter ($27.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

Stolen Things by R. H. HeronA crazy thrill-ride from the first page, I was so absorbed that I read the entire book in a day. Every time I thought I had everything figured out Herron threw in another twist I was not expecting. Her detailed knowledge of 911 dispatch gave this book a layer of realism that a lot of thrillers don't have, and the mother/daughter relationship at its heart filled me to the brim with all the feels. In a crowded field, this is not a debut to miss!

Stolen Things by R. H. Heron ($26.00*, Dutton), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

Black Light by Kimberly King ParsonsIs Friday Night Lights meets Ottessa Moshfegh a thing? Because this collection is kind of like that: unafraid of being dark or weird or gross, and set within the wandering, vacant emptiness of Texas, or anyplace far enough away for you to feel like there's no one else around. These are my favorite kinds of stories, with sharp, surprising sentences and characters full of wanting and loneliness, resourcefulness and humor.

Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons ($15.00*, Vintage), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

The Blessing: A Memoir by Gregory OrrI feel blessed having read Geoffrey Orr's memoir The Blessing. I was captivated by his opening confession that he feels blessed by a family tragedy. He avoids the usual cliches by not mythologizing the death of his brother and his struggle to regain his place in the world. The book lacks the "look at me" quality of many "overcoming adversity" memoirs and instead steps readers through the scenes building to and following the loss. His "big reveal" of how writing saved him is more of a soft landing on the far side of disaster. It carries the scars of the tragedy into a new place that is, obviously, a blessing.

The Blessing: A Memoir by Gregory Orr ($15.00*, Milkweed Editions), recommended by Book No Further, Roanoke, VA.

River of Fire: : My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen PrejeanSr. Helen Prejean's memoir of her spiritual life prior to Dead Man Walking has an engaging conversational tone which makes her journey accessible and interesting--particularly to those interested in the intersection of faith and social justice. Of special interest to Catholics will be the chapters on Vatican II and how the changes affected the life of nuns in convents, but this is highly recommended to people of all faith traditions.

River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen Prejean ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Wordsworth Books, Little Rock, AR.