Past Read this Next!

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff
Ecco, March

This book was just what I, a somewhat jaded bookseller, needed right now. Many thanks to all who brought it to life. The character development is just about perfect. These are people whom we meet, come to know, come to care for, and eventually cheer for. I can’t say it’s the most original plot, but it was the most satisfying version of “kids in peril” that I can remember. The adults come together in surprising ways, each on his or her own Hero’s Journey, and end up becoming their best selves for the benefit of the boys. It’s a lot for a first novel, but it just works–it comes across as so earnest and good-hearted, completely un-ironic in the best way. The river is both a plot device and a metaphor, as the kids barrel toward their doom. It makes this character-driven novel a real page-turner. I will be an evangelist for this book.

— Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, NC

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Red Island House by Andrea Lee

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Red Island House by Andrea Lee
Scribner, March

Beautiful, evocative writing propels a familial narrative through a journey of self-discovery and identity. The book follows Shay and her complicated relationship with her husband as they build and vacation in a sprawling estate in Madagascar over several decades. It is a novel of betrayal and class and colonialism, of race and culture and the social dynamics that underpin and threaten their marriage (and human society as a whole). As the clash of cultures and identity careens closer to Shay, she can no longer avoid making a choice about who she is and wants to be. With tinges of A Woman Destroyed, this is a story of finding your own foundational dignity in life’s wreckage.

– Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC

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Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Avon, March

Talia Hibbert is the queen of cozy, sexy, hate-to-love romance and I want to soak in the Brown sisters’ stories forever. Eve, the youngest sister, finally gets the spotlight as her journey for self-actualization leads her to an adorable B&B, whereupon she immediately hits her love interest with her car. Eve is the definition of chaotic good and her entanglement with the very LAWFUL good Jacob is squee-worthy and hot as hell.

— Sami Thomason-Fyke, Square Books in Oxford, MS

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The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Park Row, March

I inhaled this book. The plot sucked me in and I couldn’t wait to see how everything unfolded. It checked so many boxes for me–mudlarking (on my bucket list), forgotten women-centric history, botanical poisons, revenge against men behaving badly, and of course, secret apothecaries.

— Candice Conner, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, AL

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The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat
Graydon House, February

This was such an enjoyable novel for me. Ms. Lecoat does an excellent job of blending fact and fiction in her first book. The journey of the two main characters from subjugated and master to equal lovers is one that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Hannah’s The Nightingale, Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and Jenoff’s The Kommandant’s Girl.

— Annie Childress, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA

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The Project by Courtney Summers

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Project by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books, February

Courtney Summers is back with another electric gut punch of a novel and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have once again found myself a quivering mass of emotion after turning the last page of The Project. Only Courtney can perfectly encapsulate the dueling states of fragility & ferocity that exist within young women when they find themselves alone in a world that isn’t designed to protect them from harm. I dare you to pick up this brilliant novel about two sisters and a mysterious cult–you won’t be able to set it down again.

— Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

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The Merciful by Jon Sealy

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Merciful by Jon Sealy
Haywire Books, January

First: Every book club needs to put The Merciful at the top of their “next to read” list. For me, reading is for the most part a private personal experience. I love to read and immerse myself in the story. This book doesn’t let me do that. I can’t wait for my friends to read this one so we can intellectually deconstruct it. Bottom line; this book forces you to think and to see a story from disparate and various perspectives.

The book tells the story of a tragic incident where a young woman riding her bike down a country road late at night is struck and killed in a hit-and-run “accident.” Days later, after procuring an attorney, a local man comes forward thinking he “might” have been responsible. Like a rock thrown into a still pond, the incident ripples and radiates in all directions and this book conveys a thoughtful and compelling story of just how the accident affects not only the victim and the perpetrator, but also those close to them and those in the legal system who are responsible for trying the case.

Jon Sealy does a masterful job of painting the lives of these characters and exposing the flaws and foibles that make us all human. I highly recommend this thought-provoking and compelling novel.

— Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

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Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
Tordotcom, January

Remote Control is a slow-paced meditation–think The Hobbit meets The Prey of Gods–about a young girl who calls down the supernatural and must come to terms with those consequences. Eye-catching prose weaves with vivid scenes make this a novella a must-read for Afrofuturism shelves. All hail Nnedi Okorafor, queen of the short form.

Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell
Tin House, January

A sooty and shadow-filled Victorian London acts as a sentient backdrop to the sinister, dark, clever (and somehow even hilarious at times), detective mystery that is The House on Vesper Sands. As a reader, there were just so many sensory details and perfect moments of tension that made the world feel all the more real, and the discovery all the more haunting.

– Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL

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Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Balzer + Bray, January

I loved HAPPILY EVER AFTERS. It’s one of those wonderful reads that leaves it’s readers nose-wrinkling happy. It’s a wonderful exploration of new and old best friends, family dynamics, and the pressure we put on ourselves and on living up to the expectations of others that can sometimes lead to paralysis. This book is absolutely lovely, and I’d easily pick it up to read it again.

– Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me: A Childrens Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, NC

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Outlawed by Anna North

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Outlawed by Anna North
Bloomsbury Publishing, January

Anna North has taken the traditional Western and flipped it on its head with a feminist twist for a very refreshing and timely novel about self worth. Taking place in an alternate past, Ada marries at 17, but after a year of trying, can’t conceive a child. She is kicked out by her husband’s family and accused of witchcraft by the town she grew up in, forcing her to flee. She ends up with an atypical group of outlaws by way of a convent and begins to learn to survive on the outside of traditional society. Intimate and exciting, this is a very fun book!

– Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA

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The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
Algonquin Books, January

When a poor boy gets the opportunity to live among Nashville’s elite, he takes it—and what follows is a compelling tale of relationships, money, facade, and good old Southern grandeur. With tight, effective prose, Ed Tarkington illuminates the dark side of generosity and so-called good fortune.

– Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.

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The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January

An incredible debut novel filled love, light, suffering, pain, and deep beauty – sure to be one of the year’s best. Jones has penned an astoundingly well-written debut about a relationship between two enslaved young men in the American Deep South. With beautiful, vivid prose and a narrative that keeps expanding and surprising, The Prophets is a truly special novel and one that will long have a place on my shelf.

Caleb Masters Bookmarks Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Push by Ashley Audrain

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Push by Ashley Audrain
Pamela Dorman Books, January

Blythe cannot connect with her daughter Violet since birth. Her husband tells her she’s imagining the dislike from her daughter but when she has her son Sam, motherhood is everything she imagined. Tragedy strikes in their family and leaves Blyther wondering everything: Are the women in her family cursed? Is she imagining and being dramatic about Violet? Or is her husband not being a listening partner? This book will suck you in about the beauty and ugly of being a mother. It shook me to my core!

–Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.

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Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni

A Read This Next! Fall 2020 Title

I would not call myself a poetry reader, but there is something about Nikki Giovanni’s poetry that speaks to me so deeply. Sentimental and comforting, Make Me Rain covers a wide range of topics from quilts and rising bread to the social change we so desperately need in our world. Giovanni’s wisdom and understanding once again prove why she is such a poetic powerhouse – and leave the reader wanting to explore her past work again, too.

Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni (List price: $24.99, William Morrow, 9780062995285, October 2020), recommended by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

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Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Simon Pulse | 9781534425170
November 10, 2020

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

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Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Berkley | 9781984806130
October 27, 2020

A hacktavist and a cat cafe owner have love written into their future in this new novel in The Bromance Book Club series.

Alexis Carlisle and her cat cafe have shot to fame after she came forward as the vicitm of sexual harrassment at the hands of a celebrity chef. ToeBeans has become a Nashville hotspot for the curious, the furious, and the grateful. Women regularly come in to share their stories with her and thank her for coming forward. So when a young woman becomes a quiet regular at her cafe, Alexis assumes she’s just working up the courage to approach her about her own experience. The last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to blurt out that they’re sisters.

Known around Nashville as the hacker to the stars, Noah Parsons has built impenetrable servers for some of country music’s most famous faces. But after using his old hacking skills to help the Bromance Book Club bring down Royce Preston, he’s itching to get back to using his gifts for the greater good. When Alexis asks him to help investigate a girl’s claims that she and Alexis are sisters, he doesn’t hesitate.

But while investigating together, the greatest secret Alexis and Noah uncover is that they have feelings for each other…

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She Come By It Natural by Sarah Smarsh

A Fall 2020 read This Next! Title
Scribner | 9781982157289
October 13, 2020

The National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Heartland focuses her laser-sharp insights on a working-class icon and one of the most unifying figures in American culture: Dolly Parton.

Growing up amid Kansas wheat fields and airplane factories, Sarah Smarsh witnessed firsthand the particular vulnerabilities—and strengths—of women in working poverty. Meanwhile, country songs by female artists played in the background, telling powerful stories about life, men, hard times, and surviving. In her family, she writes, “country music was foremost a language among women. It’s how we talked to each other in a place where feelings aren’t discussed.” And no one provided that language better than Dolly Parton.

Smarsh challenged a typically male vision of the rural working class with her first book, Heartland, starring the bold, hard-luck women who raised her. Now, in She Come By It Natural, originally published in a four-part series for The Journal of Roots Music, No Depression, Smarsh explores the overlooked contributions to social progress by such women—including those averse to the term “feminism”—as exemplified by Dolly Parton’s life and art.

Far beyond the recently resurrected “Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.

Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon Dolly Parton and—call it whatever you like—the organic feminism she embodies.

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Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tordotcom | 9781250767028
October 13, 2020

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

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How Fire Runs by Charles Dodd White

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Swallow Press | 9780804012287
October 13, 2020

Set in rural Appalachia and told through the voices of three different present-day narrators, this harrowing novel about white supremacists attempting to take over a small town focuses an unflinching eye on America’s ongoing, fraught relationship with racial and political injustice.

A chilling, timely reminder of the moral and human costs of racial hatred.

What happens when a delusional white supremacist and his army of followers decide to create a racially pure “Little Europe” within a rural Tennessee community? As the town’s residents grapple with their new reality, minor skirmishes escalate and dirty politics, scandals, and a cataclysmic chain of violence follows. In this uncanny reflection of our time, award-winning novelist Charles Dodd White asks whether Americans can save themselves from their worst impulses and considers the consequences when this salvation comes too late.

Set in rural Appalachia and told through the voices of three different present-day narrators, this harrowing novel about white supremacists attempting to take over a small town focuses an unflinching eye on America’s ongoing, fraught relationship with racial and political injustice.

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A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South edited by Cinelle Barnes

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Hub City Press | 9781938235719
October 6, 2020

This fierce collection celebrates the incredible diversity in the contemporary South by featuring essays by twenty-one of the finest young writers of color living and working in the region today, who all address a central question: Who is welcome?

Kiese Laymon navigates the racial politics of publishing while recording his audiobook in Mississippi. Regina Bradley moves to Indiana and grapples with a landscape devoid of her Southern cultural touchstones, like Popeyes and OutKast. Aruni Kashyap apartment hunts in Athens and encounters a minefield of invasive questions. Frederick McKindra delves into the particularly Southern history of Beyonce’s black majorettes.

Assembled by editor and essayist Cinelle Barnes, essays in A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South acknowledge that from the DMV to the college basketball court to doctors’ offices, there are no shortage of places of tension in the American South. Urgent, necessary, funny, and poignant, these essays from new and established voices confront the complexities of the South’s relationship with race, uncovering the particular difficulties and profound joys of being a Southerner in the 21st century.

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Eventide by Sarah Goodman

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tor Teen | 9781250224736
October 6, 2020

An evocative YA historical fantasy thriller by debut author Sarah Goodman, for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray

MADNESS, SECRETS, AND LIES

Wheeler, Arkansas, 1907

When their father descends into madness after the death of their mother, Verity Pruitt and her little sister Lilah find themselves on an orphan train to rural Arkansas.

In Wheeler, eleven-year-old Lilah is quickly adopted, but seventeen-year-old Verity is not. Desperate to stay close to her sister, Verity indentures herself as a farmhand. But even charming farm boy Abel Atchley can’t completely distract her from the sense that something is not quite right in this little town. Strange local superstitions abound, especially about the eerie old well at the center of the forest. The woods play tricks, unleashing heavy fog and bone-chilling cold…and sometimes visions of things that aren’t there.

But for Verity, perhaps most unsettling of all is the revelation that her own parents have a scandalous history in this very town. And as she tries to unearth the past, sinister secrets come with it—secrets that someone will go to violent lengths to protect…

A haunting tale of long-buried secrets, small-town scandal, and single-minded vengeance by talented debut novelist Sarah Goodman.

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Julia’s House Moves On by Ben Hatke

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
First Second/Macmillan 9781250191373
September 29, 2020

Julia and her house full of fantastic friends are back for another sweet adventure, from #1 New York Times-bestselling author Ben Hatke.

Julia’s house is restless.

Julia and her family of lost creatures are ready to move on. But where will they go? And how will they get there?

Don’t worry—Julia has a plan for that! Julia always has a plan. But when Julia’s plans all fail…

What’s left for her?

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Down Along with That Devil’s Bones by Connor Towne O’Neill

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Algonquin Books / 9781616209100
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

“We can no longer see ourselves as minor spectators or weary watchers of history a­fter finishing this astonishing work of nonfiction.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confederate generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Through the lens of these conflicts, O’Neill examines the legacy of white supremacy in America, in a sobering and fascinating work sure to resonate with readers of Tony Horwitz, Timothy B. Tyson, and Robin DiAngelo.

When O’Neill first moved to Alabama, as a white Northerner, he felt somewhat removed from the racism Confederate monuments represented. Then one day in Selma, he stumbled across a group of citizens protecting a monument to Forrest, the officer who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and whom William Tecumseh Sherman referred to as “that devil.” O’Neill sets off to visit other disputed memorials to Forrest across the South, talking with men and women who believe they are protecting their heritage, and those who have a different view of the man’s poisonous history.

O’Neill’s reporting and thoughtful, deeply personal analysis make it clear that white supremacy is not a regional affliction but is in fact coded into the DNA of the entire country. Down Along with That Devil’s Bones presents an important and eye-opening account of how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville, and where, if we can truly understand and transcend our past, we could be headed next.

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Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Crown Books for Young Readers / 9781984829665
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

The stunning sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Dear Martin. Incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American juvenile justice system. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas.

In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system.

Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University…and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center.

Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce—the protagonist of Dear Martin—Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

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Cuyahoga by Pete Beatty

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Scribner | 9781982155551
October 6, 2020

One of The Millions and BuzzFeed‘s Most Anticipated Books

A spectacularly inventive debut novel that reinvents the tall tale for our times—”Cuyahoga defies all modest description…[it] is ten feet tall if it’s an inch, and it’s a ramshackle joy from start to finish” (Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls).

Big Son is a spirit of the times—the times being 1837. Behind his broad shoulders, shiny hair, and church-organ laugh, Big Son practically made Ohio City all by himself. The feats of this proto-superhero have earned him wonder and whiskey toasts but very little in the way of fortune. And without money, Big cannot become an honest husband to his beloved Cloe (who may or may not want to be his wife, honestly).

In pursuit of a steady wage, our hero hits the (dirt) streets of Ohio City and Cleveland, the twin towns racing to become the first great metropolis of the West. Their rivalry reaches a boil over the building of a bridge across the Cuyahoga River—and Big stumbles right into the kettle. The resulting misadventures involve elderly terrorists, infrastructure collapse, steamboat races, wild pigs, and multiple ruined weddings.

Narrating this “deliriously fun” (Brian Phillips) tale is Medium Son—known as Meed—apprentice coffin maker, almanac author, orphan, and the younger brother of Big. Meed finds himself swept up in the action, and he is forced to choose between brotherly love and his own ambitions. His uncanny voice—plain but profound, colloquial but surprisingly poetic—elevates a slapstick frontier tale into a screwball origin myth for the Rust Belt.

In Cuyahoga, tragedy and farce jumble together in a riotously original voice. Evoking the Greek classics and the Bible alongside nods to Looney Tunes, Charles Portis, and Flannery O’Connor, Pete Beatty has written a rollicking revisionist (mid)Western with universal themes of family and fate—an old, weird America that feels brand new.

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Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Park Row | 9780778310150
October 6, 2020

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you should never, ever make conversation with strangers.

Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.

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