The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Ruth Ozeki uses her unique style of magical realism to elevate this immersive tale of the chaotic life of a teen-aged boy who has lost his father, and the boy’s hoarder mother, who is also struggling to deal with the boy’s apparent mental illness. This book, which is about the transcendent power of books, has many chapters that are narrated… by a book. You’ll also find talking scissors and a nine-story public library in this novel that deals with serious topics in a charming and redemptive way.

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, (List Price: 30, Viking, 9780399563645, September 2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

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Lean Fall Stand by Jon Mcgregor

Doc Wright leads expeditions to Antarctica. It’s been a hard adjustment for his wife and children to be gone for many months at a time but they’ve had 30 years or more to adjust to someone who is just not ever really around. When his current expedition encounters a sudden storm, he struggles to radio for help and is injured. Wright wakes up in the hospital with jumbled memories and unable to communicate. As he begins a difficult convalescence, his wife and children must help with his caregiving, a role not eagerly embraced by any of them. This is a great read and highly recommended!

Lean Fall Stand by Jon Mcgregor, (List Price: 26, Catapult, 9781646220991, September 2021)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

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My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long

These poems were enchanting and brilliant, forcing you to think and interact with the stories being told. Once you sit down with this book, you won’t be able to get back up until you’ve closed it and long after, too consumed with every single word. Carefully crafted, and perfectly balanced, this book of poetry is perfect for newcomers to poetry, or those well versed in it.

My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, (List Price: 16.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142711, September 2021)

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Mennonite Valley Girl by Carla Funk

After reading the very first page, I knew I’d love this book. Funk’s language is poetic, and the humor is soft and subtle. I braced myself for trauma, but was so delighted to find the interior life of a young girl who wants more out of life than what she sees around her. Universal, old as time, yet fresh and gripping. I saw myself in every page.

Mennonite Valley Girl by Carla Funk, (List Price: 27.95, Greystone Books, 9781771645157, September 2021)

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Dare to Know by James Kennedy

Dare to Know starts with a fascinating sci-fi speculation: what if science could pinpoint the exact date and time of your death? That’s an intriguing proposal; however, this novel isn’t satisfied by simply exploring this question. What could have been a societal sci-fi story turns into something else entirely—a personal and riveting horror story full of terrors like sagging careers and failed relationships, oddly specific Gen X fears (bearded 1970s hippies and Don Henley songs), and universal horrors like death and the end of the world. This novel was frightening and smart and it made me think.

Dare to Know by James Kennedy, (List Price: 22.99, Quirk Books, 9781683692607, September 2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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Beautifully Me by Nabela Noor

Zubi is thrilled for her first day at school–until she hears her parents and sister talking about diets and their own negative body image. Should Zubi be ashamed of herself too? In the end, Zubi realizes that only YOU get to define what is beautiful and you are fabulous just the way you are. This book is a perfect way to talk to kids about body image, self-love, and how everyone is different and that’s a good thing!

Beautifully Me by Nabela Noor, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534485877, September 2021)

Reviewed by Jen Minor, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins

A square or a frog? orange or an oval? The way things seem really is all about perception. For fans of Brendan Wenzel’s They All Saw A Cat comes this fun new story of perspective that will have young readers laughing and thinking and saying ” Again! AGAIN!”

Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins, (List Price: 15.99, Chronicle Books, 9781797205083, September 2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean

This is an absolutely fascinating, if sometimes harrowing, look into the history of science. Fans of Mary Roach will appreciate the unflinching look at the sometimes devastating human cost of scientific progress. The author raises several interesting questions about the use or validity of poorly performed scientific experiments. Particularly, Kean questions whether the knowledge gained from unethical experimentation is valid and what we should do with this information moving forward. I particularly enjoyed his focus on how these actions have affected marginalized communities. I also appreciated his repeated entreaties that we cannot simply wag our fingers at the mistakes of the past and pretend we are blameless and more morally pure than those who came before us. We must constantly remain vigilant and ensure that we are mindful of the ethical and long-term consequences of our actions in the present, lest we repeat our sins in the name of scientific progress.

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean, (List Price: $40, Little, Brown & Company, 9780316496506, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Awake by Harald Voetmann

Awake is a collage of excerpts from Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia, perhaps the oldest surviving encyclopedia, intercut with interior monologues from Pliny, as well as asides from his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Our narrator, of course, is most famous now for having died at the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which the younger Pliny also witnessed. Yet this climactic scene is relegated to a post-script; what draws the most attention, justly, are memories and recreations of ancient Roman life, which of course deal with all the bigger themes of knowledge and meaning and life, fitting for a classic work. Who thought that a narrative styled after an encyclopedia would be this deeply involving?

Awake by Harald Voetmann, (List Price: 14.95, New Directions, 9780811230810, September 2021)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason

One minute Jenny is on a flight in 1995, the next she’s disembarking a plane in the year 2020 to find that everybody she knew is now 25 years older. In a world dominated by technology and social media, Jenny becomes the focus of unwanted attention from FBI investigators, the media, and a growing number of conspiracy theorists. Your Life Has Been Delayed is a thought-provoking examination of how time affects us all and the things that stay constant in life.

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason, (List Price: 17.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547604081, September 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally

Mari is visiting Chicago for Lollapalooza, a chance to see her favorite singer, hang out with her stepsister and see her Dad. Mari is struggling with personal issues- things are rough at home with her mom, her relationship with her best friend is strained, and she is still dealing with resentment towards her father for ditching her and her mom to go live his best life. And she really, really doesn’t want to date and fall in love. But then a Ride Share brings her T.J. Here’s why I love the title of the book: The Pick-Up is definitely referencing the Uber app, but T.J.’s brother Tyler kind of also comes across as a Pick-Up Artist coach to his little bro. Thankfully, T.J. is too pure. He’s like a sexy cinnamon roll. Mari and T.J. have immediate chemistry, but Mari is wary (hehe)- they’re both from out of state, she’s not looking for a boyfriend, her dad cheated on her mom, and then her mom went off the deep end. Sometimes things are destined, and sometimes you have to make things happen. Absolute love for this book!

The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally, (List Price: 10.99, Sourcebooks Fire, 9781492684169, September 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young

What would you do if you were recruited to be a kpop idol? When Alice Choy moves from San Francisco to Seoul, she gives up her private studies in music and singing lessons in hopes that she’ll be able to finish school like any other seventeen-year-old. But when she’s scouted at a karaoke bar, her life changes in an instant. Alice is swiftly introduced to a world she’s always wanted to explore in the k-pop industry. But, being an idol doesn’t only entail fame or musical prowess–it also comes with jealousy, scandal, and gossip, all on top of the challenges of training in order to be the best performer possible. This was such a fun read and the perfect book for any k-pop fan.

Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young, (List Price: 18.99, Walker Books US, 9781536213645, 2021-09-14)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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Assembly by Natasha Brown

This book is an excellent “gateway” for readers of all kinds to learn about the subtle nuances of being a person of color. From microaggressions to being called out because of race, the main character sees at all and is trying to make a name for herself. On the surface, this short book is about a woman meeting her boyfriend’s parents, but the story dives much deeper and examines differences in race, wealth, and status. Throughout the book, I felt myself questioning how I have been racist without meaning to and ways in which people have done the same to me. This quick read will stay with me for a long time and make me examine my interactions that much closer, with an eye towards empathy and understanding.

Assembly by Natasha Brown, (List Price: $23.00, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316268264, September 2021)

Reviewed by Josie Greenwald, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

I read this Fourth of July weekend which was the perfect book to give me a different perspective on what America means to a family fleeing a war-torn country in search of a better life. Dobbs’ great-grandmother inspired this heart-wrenching, incredible story of 12 yo Petra Luna’s “barefoot dreams” of learning to read and write and protecting her family. I loved the earnest determination and bravery of Petra, her closeness with her 2 younger siblings, and how her abuelita taught her to listen to the natural world to survive the harsh desert conditions to make their way to the U.S. border. It was such a beautiful mix of mythology and holding tight to dreams. The war brutality was presented realistically–the danger wasn’t glossed over, but instead presented in a child-thoughtful way. I learned so much about a time in history that I didn’t know much about. My 10-year-old daughter and I highly recommend!

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs, (List Price: 17.99, Sourcebooks Young Readers, 9781728234656, September 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner

This beautifully written memoir features the intertwined lives of the author, her sister and childhood friend. Written in fresh, understated prose, the author explores how their lives diverge – in ways heartbreaking and hopeful, despairing and redemptive. Three Girls is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I hope it gets the attention and awards it deserves.

Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner, (List Price: 26.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982107703, September 2021)

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

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Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pamment

Iris and Sam are best friends, but where Sam is content to remain in their small town of Bugden, Iris dreams of traveling for far-flung adventure. But one day the lake runs dry and they discover an abandoned town that had been hidden there. There they find themselves on an adventure they never expected and learn the importance of home. This is a delightful story for any kid who has dreamed of traveling to dig for treasure or setting sail for adventure, and a reminder that some of the best adventures can happen right in your backyard.

Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pamment, (List Price: 12.99, HarperAlley, 9780063065178, September 2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish

The War For Gloria is a haunting follow-up to Lish’s last award-winning novel. Set in the Boston area, Corey is in high school when his mother is diagnosed with ALS. As he struggles to cope and take care of his mother Gloria, his previously absent father comes back into their lives and upends everything. Corey initially admires his father’s intellect and seeks a connection with him through his mother’s situation. It doesn’t take long for Corey to realize his father is a leech that is absent of empathy and any kind of emotional connection. Corey goes through several stages of growth throughout the novel and he fights (quite literally) for his mother & his sanity… as he’s also fighting an internal war on how to best become a man. Every character’s actions in this story leads to a consequence. Even the most minor of things that they say or do come back to haunt them in some way, shape, or form. I was stuck processing everything about it by the end… and though this book is traumatic at times, it’s a hell of a story.

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish, (List Price: 28, Knopf, 9781524732325, September 2021)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Well, that was perfect! Whitehead’s character work here is just beyond. A few short sentences and the whole of a person is made clear. There are lines and phrases that are now etched on my brain! Including “Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked.” (which the pub clearly loves too because they quote this everywhere). I would typically expect a noir novel to be significantly shorter, but I enjoyed every moment I spent with Harlem Shuffle.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, (List Price: 28.95, Doubleday, 9780385545136, September 2021)

Reviewed by Michelle Cavalier, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

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Field Study by Chet’la Sebree

I love anything that blurs genre lines, so I loved the way this book is an experiment of blending poetry and prose, memoir and fiction. There’s a dash of collective storytelling here, too, in the way the author brings in the words of Black feminist poets and writers. A beautiful and earnest exploration of relationships, love, and desire.

Field Study by Chet’la Sebree, (List Price: 16, FSG Originals, 9780374539023, June 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Hao by Ye Chun

Each story in Hao pulses with life—with all its pain and beauty—and the power of language to transform it. They all, in a way, revolve around Chinese women past and present and their entanglements with motherhood, migration, and trauma. Ye’s prose is searingly honest, paying close attention to those tiny gaps in relationships where loneliness and love reside, and the ways in which we try to bridge those gulfs with communication. Both meditative and fierce, these stories will hold your heart long after you close the book.

Hao by Ye Chun, (List Price: 26, Catapult, 9781646220601, September 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

I always knew I was more a glamper than a camper, but with The Woods Are Always Watching, I think I’ll go from hiker to mall walker. The first half of the book is filled with the tension and horror of a friendship falling apart as two besties find themselves on opposite paths post-high school. Friends really know how to hurt you the most…Well, maybe not the most. Because the second half of the book is a furious fight for survival as the girls encounter the most evil threat that lurks deep in the woods. No, not bears, but a serial killer. Plan to read this horror novel during the daytime, preferably on a beach and far away from any woods!

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins, (List Price: 17.99, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 9780525426028, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks by Susie Yi

If my kids were cats and had access to magic they would be Squash and Ginny. We read this cute little graphic novel over a few sittings and they absolutely loved it. The art style is bright and happy and the story is easy to follow while not being too simplistic.

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks by Susie Yi, (List Price: 8.99, HarperAlley, 9780063083806, September 2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Qian Julie Wang opens her heart and bares her soul in this striking memoir about an illegal Chinese immigrant family. Wang does a fine job describing the poverty and sweatshops of Chinatown, her parents’ fear of getting deported, and her determination to make something of herself in Mei Guo, America, the beautiful country. The poverty and prejudice her family faced as well as her parents’ marital difficulties created trauma that Wang today is still determined to break through.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang, (List Price: 28.95, Doubleday, 9780385547215, September 2021)

Reviewed by Linda Hodges, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

Once I started this book I did not want any interruptions until I finished reading. The mysticism of Appalachia comes to life on the pages of the book. Mel is in the foster system and has learned all the pitfalls of the system, but cares for no one until Sarah arrives at her foster home. Sarah is otherworldly to Mel, she is kind, timid and becomes Mel’s family. They bond and escape terrible situations together, but Sarah always wants to return home to the Wildwood where she was born and raised. Mel would do anything for Sarah so she grants that wish and begins a journey with a cast of characters she could have never even imagined. I won’t go into detail here as the discoveries are best made when you read this touching and heart-grabbing book.

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece, (List Price: 28, Redhook, 9780316591768, August 2021)

Reviewed by Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

In the Wild Light is a beautiful tribute to family, friendship, and the natural world. Zentner handles all three subjects with a gentle hand, weaving magical sentences that left me thoughtful and tearful. This is Zentner at his absolute best.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner, (List Price: 17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers, 9781524720247, August 2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

An absolutely incredible, insightful, and clear-eyed look at our limited time on this earth and the ways we use it. I’m not much one for self-help books but Burkeman weaves seamlessly weaves together wisdom from philosophy, spirituality, and science to make the argument that you’ll never have time to do “everything you want or need to” and life is more about choosing what to spend your four thousand weeks on Funny and brilliantly wise, Burkeman has fundamentally shifted the way I think about my to-do list, my aspirations, my “busyness”, my guilt for not doing the things I should have done, and my brief, brief time on this planet. I cannot recommend Four Thousand Weeks highly enough.

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, (List Price: 27, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374159122, August 2021)

Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza

Art is all around us. In the sky, the trees, the faces of our neighbors, and also sometimes in the graffiti sprayed on buildings, trains, and streets. The art world was changed forever by graffiti artists Basquiat and others and graffiti artists were masters of appreciating the beauty and joy all around us. This original book is rhyme and poetry and beauty in motion and is the perfect family read-together.

Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza, (List Price: 18.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062976222, August 2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

OH how I loved this book. I am a (proud!!) member of the Slow Readers Club and when I devour a book as fast as I did The Show Girl, it’s a good sign. And this was a GREAT book. I loved City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and the minute I saw this cover & tagline I knew I had to read this book too. The Show Girl was phenomenal, and I had NO idea where it was going to go, which I liked. If I have one complaint, it would be that the tagline is a little misleading to what ultimately becomes the central conflict of the book. She ultimately knows what she wants in the decision of performing vs marriage to Archie (granted this ultimatum is a source of some conflict but in my opinion is not the ultimate breaking point), the issue becomes whether or not to tell him about something about her past that will affect their marriage and plans for the future. Now, granted, the tagline is what got me to read the book, so I understand why it is what it is, but it just felt a tad misleading. Outside of that, this book was the most wonderful trip to a New York on the cusp of the Great Depression, an exploration of the Broadway of Ziegfeld, a story full of rich imagery and stellar characters. And best of all, it has a real, true, genuine happy ending that wasn’t predictable. I loved it.

The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison, (List Price: 27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250200150, August, 2021)

Reviewed by Olivia Gacka, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh

Oh my gosh, this was so much fun! If you’re a fan of Phantom of the Opera, you HAVE to read this modern spin on the classic tale. With references to everything from Ghost Adventures to Silence of the Lambs, this is an awesome read for fans of Phantom. Stephanie (this version’s Christine) is no wilting wallflower – she takes control of her own destiny, and Erik’s tragic tale is spun into an even more heartbreaking story. I could barely put this down to go to bed! Themes of romance that transcends time and space, the shattering of a soul, and love of family spread their fingers throughout this book, and it is beautiful. I loved it!

Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh, (List Price: 19.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593116043, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld

Count on me to fall in love with a quirky fairy tale any day of the week. But I mean, what in the world cannot be achieved by a girl who becomes a log when she’s asleep, her robot brother, a sweet family of beetles, and a clever witch? I adore this graphic novel-style picture book full of sibling love and weird vibes that manages to feel cozy-classic and totally brand new at once.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld, (List Price: 18.99, Neal Porter Books, 9780823446988, August 2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Krueger effortlessly weaves lilting language, thought-provoking issues, and an extremely compelling mystery into a historical, small-town setting. A young boy follows in his father’s footsteps as he searches for “crumbs” to help solve a crime and discovers some much larger truths along the way. The characters are unforgettable, the story is suspenseful, and the writing is beautiful. Especially for readers who enjoy murder mysteries, coming of age stories, Native American stories, and well-written fiction. It is almost Southern Gothic, but maybe not quite dark or southern enough. Some of the theological threads remind me a bit of Marilynne Robinson as well.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982128685, August 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Rawls, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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Names for Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

Names for Light is a beautiful book, astonishing and profound. Despite some of its heaviness — war, colonialism, racism, death — there is such openness and grace. Even in displacement — or perhaps through it — Myint creates a rich sense of all the places that help form the story of her family, however imperfectly. Almost like an elegant procession of prose poems, Names for Light is often at its most powerful when exploring these imperfections — the memories that cannot be reconstructed, the words that cannot be translated, the ghosts that cannot be conjured or dispelled. This book is an achievement and a gift.

Names for Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint, (List Price: 16, Graywolf Press, 9781644450611, August 2021)

Reviewed by Steve Haruch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest is a smoky, simmering historical noir following a romance-comic-reading secretary and a lonely henchman, as each becomes ensnared in a search for a missing photographer, set in 1970s Mexico City during the Dirty War, when, backed by the U.S., the Mexican government infiltrated & attacked left-wing protest groups. I enjoyed unlikely heroes Maite & Elvis, the historical context, and the soundtrack of suppressed rock music scoring the scenes throughout.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, (List Price: 28, Del Rey, 9780593356821, August, 2021)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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Maiden Voyages by Siân Evans

Millions of women crisscrossed the Atlantic via ocean liners during the first half of the 20th century— glamorous actresses, émigrés seeking new beginnings, and female crewmembers navigating everything from outrageous passenger demands to sinking ships. This witty and engaging social history sails the reader into the golden age of transatlantic travel with portraits of the women whose journeys helped reshape society on both sides of the ocean.

Maiden Voyages by Siân Evans, (List Price: 28.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250246462, August 2021)

Reviewed by Erin Cox, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland has written another YA novel that gets to the root of things and unearths the magic that was always there, waiting for us: this is her special power. Where Sia Martinez’s story brought us new worlds, Moon Fuentez’s story powerfully dissects our current one; the everyday magic of fireweed, moths, dragonflies, mulberries, and salt burst off the page in Vasquez Gilliland’s kaleidoscopic prose. How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe is also a story of sisterhood and grief, of trauma and religion, of abuse and mental health, but at its heart lives a romance of epic proportion. Moon Fuentez is the beautiful, artistic, fat, witchy Latinx heroine that we all need and I adore her gorgeous love story.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, (List Price: 19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534448667, August 2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

Ghost Girl is another 2021 debut on my Much Anticipation list and did not disappoint! I loved how Zee was a storyteller even if she got teased for it, and her and Elijah’s friendship was awesome. I REALLY disliked Nellie and couldn’t see how they’d ever get to a point where they could work together, so Malinenko did an amazing job with her characters. And plot and pacing. I did think the scene when the ghost first appeared to Zee was a little scary (even to late 30s me, lol) so I personally would recommend it more for 10 and up but every child reader is different! (And once Zee figured out who the ghost was, it wasn’t as scary anymore, but you had to read through to get to that part, of course.)My absolute favorite part of this book (besides the library-love which I am always here for) was that CONSENT is the secret weapon. (I don’t think that’s spoilery because I’m keeping it out of context for this review.) I was cheering as I read and think it’s such a great message to make consent so powerful. Love, love, love.

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko, (List Price: 16.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780063044609, August 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

When teenaged Abi Blake goes missing after a party in the woods the search for her by her best friend Emma slowly uncovers the dark secrets the people of the small town of Whistling Ridge, CO have been hiding. Where The Truth Lies is a disturbing and very atmospheric novel about a town full of abusers, racists, bigots and homophobes, a fire and brimstone preacher, and a congregation of religious zealots who use God as an excuse for all their evil or for the secrets they keep about their abusers. Beautifully written considering the bleakness and sadness that pervade the novel you will not want to put it down in the hopes that at least the young can escape and find happiness and normalcy.

Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982157166, August 2021)

Reviewed by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal

There is so much to be said about this book and why it’s so delightful. I was really excited for the English translation and was not in the least bit disappointed by what Jennifer Croft pulled off. What I would say I most enjoy is the decision to let it be as local as it is. It is such a perfectly quintessential porteño novel, and I’m really glad the translator and editor decided to let it be what it is.

The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, (List Price: 24, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635577334, August 2021)

Reviewed by Charles Lee, Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina

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Edge Case by YZ Chin

A thoughtful, incisive, sometimes upsetting look into marriage, immigration, and layered trauma. As Edwina faces the sudden absence of her husband, she also carries the fears of her years-long immigration process, not to mention sexual harassment at work, a mother whose obsession with Edwina’s weight has marked E permanently, and the question of her cultural identity. Chin weaves the complexities of these realities together seamlessly. Edwina moves from meditating on her husband’s strangeness before his departure, to the past-life stories her mom tells, to the mole on her cheek within paragraphs, but it all feels natural. It feels as though we are truly processing, grieving, seeking to understand with Edwina. A unique voice, clear-eyed and honest, while remaining soft to human pain, Chin has written a book somehow chilling and heart-warming at once.

Edge Case by YZ Chin, (List Price: 26.99, Ecco, 9780063030688, August 2021)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Bat Wings! Cat Wings? by Laura Gehl

The cow says moo and the dog says ruff, but there’s always that kid who wants to turn everything on its head and this is the perfect book for those little rebels. Fun animal facts combine with a bit of ridiculousness to make for a fun read-aloud that would be perfect for storytime or any time!

Bat Wings! Cat Wings? by Laura Gehl, (List Price: 15.99, Creative Editions, 9781568463742, August, 2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Pittsboro, North Carolina

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Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson

Sisters in Arms is the previously untold story of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, originated from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and the first Black women allowed to serve. This is a much-needed novel, perfect for fans of not just World War II fiction but all historical fiction. It would make the perfect selection for book clubs this fall!

Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson, (List Price: 16.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062964588, August 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

Radiant Fugitives covers some big topics – LGBTQ politics, same-sex marriage, religion, Islamophobia, and the Obama campaign, to name just a few! – but it is at its heart an intimate novel, focusing on the ties that both bind families together and drive them apart. Seema, originally from India, has been estranged from her parents and younger sister for over 20 years, after she came out to her father. But the imminent arrival of her baby and her mother’s unspecified terminal illness brings together the three women of the family together for an opportunity for reconciliation. What follows is both tender and utterly heartbreaking – with an ending that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed, (List Price: 27, Counterpoint, 9781640094048, August 2021)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Made in China by Anna Qu

A young Chinese immigrant calls Child Services on her mother. Like the threads whirling through her mother and stepfather’s New York City sweatshop where she was forced to work as a girl, Anna Qu’s debut memoir is full of the fragments of a traumatic childhood and the challenges of piecing together the truth—about trauma and the generational pattern of cruelty, about immigration and identity, labor and self-worth, and ultimately, the love we deserve, awaiting us.

Made in China by Anna Qu, (List Price: 26, Catapult, 9781646220342, August 2021)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

I loved the world-building in this fantasy debut! Rueckert created two different religious systems and blended them expertly into the cultures of the different countries. Newly-queened Jiara must understand both if she’s to lead in peace, AND find out who murdered her sister Scilla, who is quickly becoming a pretty scary earthwalker, a ghost consumed by revenge to find her killer. There’s a lot going on with high stakes but the pacing flows well so it is never overwhelming. Jiara is an awesome protagonist you want to follow to the ends of worlds. She’s brave and kind and is constantly on herself for not living up to her older sister’s legacy due to her undiagnosed dyslexia. But she always looks for the Next Best Thing and by opening her heart to her new people, their Watcher religion (while still embracing her own) she learns so much about her own capabilities. Her relationship with King Raffar is awesome and sweet and so refreshing.

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert, (List Price: 9.99, Flux, 9781635830651, 2021-08-03)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

After Pearl Harbor, Aki Ito and her family, American citizens living in Los Angeles, are sent to Manzanar, an internment camp. Upon release, they are relocated to Chicago — they are not allowed to return to their home in Los Angeles. Rose, Aki’s older sister, is released first, and many months later, Aki and her parents are released. Upon arriving in Chicago, they learn that Rose has died in a subway train accident and further information reveals that she committed suicide. Aki and her parents are filled with grief and shame. Aki, who idolized Rose, knows that Rose would never kill herself, so she begins to investigate Rose’s life in Chicago. As Aki turns over every last stone, she learns important information about herself, her sister, her new city, and her place in this country. This powerful historical mystery is well written and filled with information about the lives of Japanese Americans during WWII. Highly recommended.

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara, (List Price: 27.95, Soho Crime, 9781641292498, August, 2021)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

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Amelia Erroway: Castaway Commander: A Graphic Novel by Betsy Peterschmidt

Any headstrong, capable, smart kid who is misunderstood by adults will see themselves in Amelia Erroway. Amelia is a brilliant girl who wants to follow in her pilot father’s footsteps–against her father’s wishes. When her first attempt at piloting takes her off course, she is introduced to a curious place and a family of people who know she can do whatever she puts her mind to. Peterschmidt’s world is as immersive and entrancing and alien as Treasure Planet, Avatar, and the like, and her story is one to behold.

Amelia Erroway: Castaway Commander: A Graphic Novel by Betsy Peterschmidt, (List Price: 26.99, Graphix, 9781338186147, August 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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All’s Well by Mona Awad

Miranda Fitch is in agony following a fall that ended her illustrious acting career. When a trio of strange men offers her a method of ridding herself of her pain, she discovers that accepting Faustian bargains come at a brutal and bloody price. Miranda is both deeply relatable and monstrous; her transformation from victim, to villain, to something in between was a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. As with Mona Awad’s first book, Bunny, All’s Well is a quirky, original work that relies heavily on internal monologues and deep characterization – sometimes tilting away from the plot slightly, as the ending of the novel falters somewhat under the weight of Miranda’s unreliable narration. Nonetheless, All’s Well is a treat for anyone seeking an unusual protagonist who enjoys both the drama department and the dramatic.

All’s Well by Mona Awad, (List Price: 27, Simon & Schuster, 9781982169664, August 2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

A day at the zoo for the Dracula family provides the perfect cover for Junior to engage in a penguin switcheroo. Hilarious and adorable, with illustrations that tell as much of the story as the words themselves.

Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins, (List Price: 17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534466982, July 2021)

Reviewed by Elese Stutts, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Ellerie with her twin brothers and sisters live in the peaceful Amity Falls that sit on the edge of a dangerous wood. Bells and great pyres keep the darkness at bay, but when strangers appear and Ellerie’s brother Sam starts acting bizarre and hostile, Ellerie finds herself wondering what she would trade to have her parents home and everything back to normal. But in small towns, darkness often isn’t outside, but within the hearts of its residents. Wow. just wow. This is a stunning sophomore novel from Craig, author of House of Salt and Sorrows. I was blown away by the build-up and the dark atmosphere. I stayed up late, laundry sat unwashed, and I was utterly entranced by all the characters in this story. I loved Ellerie and her courage as well as the mysterious Whitaker who stole my heart along with hers. This is going to be one of the most popular books of 2021, so don’t miss out!

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig, (List Price: 18.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593306741, July 2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Kate Kitamura’s Intimacies details a few months in the life of an interpreter at The Hague who is looking for belonging to a place and perhaps to a partner. Just as she has to see beyond the words in her work, she has to interpret the actions of her married lover as well as the alleged atrocities of a war criminal she works with at the International Court. This novel is both quiet and thrilling.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, (List Price: 26, Riverhead Books, 9780399576164, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima

Jessie Sima has once again found the direct line to my heart – this time through a personified “haunted” house! This sweet story about a house that is worried about being haunted will resonate with readers who are finding ways to be comfortable in their own skin.

Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534441705, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Leigh has a steady life. She works as a lawyer and has a great daughter. Even her divorce is amiable and she still adores her Ex. But when she’s pulled in to work on a rape case with a super tight timeline, her carefully crafted facade threatens to crumble. Slaughter continues to weave a carefully crafted, edge-of-your-seat thriller in this new standalone novel. The twists are surprising and the tension is high!

False Witness by Karin Slaughter, (List Price: 28.99, William Morrow, 9780062858092, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker

I loved Morgan Parker’s collections There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce and Magical Negro so I was excited to go back and read her debut collection in its new re-released form. It comes with a lovely foreword by Danez Smith, whose observations enhanced my reading experience. From her other two collections, I knew I loved the way Parker combines poetry and music; I loved seeing in this collection how she brings the visual arts into her world, too.

Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker, (List Price: 16.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142568, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I don’t typically read sci-fi but on a recommendation from a fellow team member on the podcast What Should I Read Next, I read “A Long Way to a Dark Angry Planet”. With this title, I believe that I will read anything Becky Chambers’ writes. This novella was WONDERFUL! It was just what I needed this weekend; engaging but comforting. I cried at the end; it was the release I didn’t know I needed. Al of my friends need to read this because, as the dedication says, it’s “for everyone who needs a break”, and after the year we have had, we all need this break.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, July 2021)

Reviewed by Shannan Malone, The Snail On the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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Stiff by Mary Roach

I absolutely love Mary Roach – the way she breaks down complex topics is second to none. I borrowed a copy from a friend and was done with it in two days. I love the way she can take a really complex and delicate topic, and break it down from a variety of perspectives to come to a wonderfully fascinating conclusion.

Stiff by Mary Roach, (List Price: 16.95, W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393324822, May 2004)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story On the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Trejo by Danny Trejo

Having been slightly familiar with Danny Trejo as an actor and enjoying some of his films, I picked this book up as a lark and I ended up being utterly fascinated. His personal story is heart-wrenching at times, but it is filled with redemption at the highest level. Composed in a conversational tone by fellow actor Donal Logue, Trejo recounts growing up in LA during the 50’s/60’s and doing several stints in notorious prisons like Soledad, San Quentin, and Folsom. He is brutally honest about his faults, regrets, and crimes…but he also explains how it led to him being a fixture in the drug & alcohol rehabilitation community after he became sober. The actor’s newfound vocation of helping other addicts stay clean eventually led to his film career through an unforeseeable stroke of luck. Now a cultural icon for the city of LA and the Mexican American community, this book shows the reader it’s never too late to make a positive change in one’s life.

Trejo by Danny Trejo, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982150822, July 2021)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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The Therapist by B. A. Paris

This book stressed me out in the worst yet best possible way; I don’t know how to explain that I hated yet loved the anxiety it gave me! Alice and Leo have moved into a new home and host a housewarming party. An unknown man appears at the party, and a few days later he reappears with a revelation about the new home and neighborhood she just moved into. Alice becomes determined to discover the truth about her home and what her neighbors are hiding. This was a wild ride that I truly enjoyed.

The Therapist by B. A. Paris, (List Price: 27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250274120, July 2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Seek You by Kristen Radtke

Like many other people, I’ve spent the last year questioning how we differentiate between loneliness and aloneness. Kristen Radtke’s SEEK YOU is a gorgeous fully-illustrated meditation on the often stigmatized epidemic of loneliness and an investigation into how we form bonds with others. Not since Olivia Laing’s LONELY CITY have I felt such kinship with an author. I’m so grateful that this book exists.

Seek You by Kristen Radtke, (List Price: 30, Pantheon, 9781524748067, July 2021)

Reviewed by Lindsay Lynch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Listen by Gabi Snyder

The message of LISTEN is one for all ages – when all you hear is noise, stop, close your eyes, and listen to everything waiting to be heard. Gabi Snyder’s lesson starts on a busy city street but goes beyond just noisy times to remind us the importance of listening for feelings like our friends’ emotions and how we are feeling inside. Stephanie Graegin’s illustrations are a gentle, perfect accompaniment to the text. This would make the perfect book for a storytime or lesson centered on mindfulness.

Listen by Gabi Snyder, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 9781534461895, July 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Fans of GET OUT and SAWKILL GIRLS, prepare to meet Jake Livingston. Ryan Douglass’s debut is gritty and extremely tough to read at times, but with social issues at the forefront and a hero worth rooting for, THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON is a deep novel that holds back no punches. Queer, eerie, and heart-wrenching, Douglass takes his readers on an emotional rollercoaster through these horror events – both paranormal and real-life.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass, (List Price: 17.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781984812537, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brad Sells, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Finally the book you have been waiting for. This last year has been tough and we have needed this light hilarious book that needs to be shared with all your friends. Full of stellar observations of life and how people function you will finish and open to the beginning to visit with old friends.

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam, (List Price: 26, Scribner, 9781982156183, July 2021)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

Award-winning Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam’s second novel is a profound meditation on love, desire, war, mortality, and the human condition. Krishan, an NGO worker based in the capital Colombo, receives an email out of the blue from a former girlfriend, on the same day he learns that his grandmother’s former carer has died. The journey that follows – through the heart of a country still recovering from a decades-long civil war – is as much through the mind as it is physical. Highly recommended.

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, (List Price: 27, Hogarth, 9780593230701, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

An exiled princess, a deathly curse, dragons, and magic come together to make Six Crimson Cranes a breathtaking fantasy that had me hooked from the very first chapter. Elizabeth Lim’s world-building is lush and dreamy, the fantasy spin makes this story dark and vivid, and Shiori and her brothers quickly began to feel like old friends to me. If you love fantasy and books that feel like a fairytale, I dare you to pick up Six Crimson Cranes and try to set it down – prepare to be addicted.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, (List Price: 18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593300916, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brad Sells, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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City Problems by Steve Goble

Ed Runyan is an ex-NYPD detective who left the big apple for the relative quiet of rural Ohio after a particularly gruesome case involving the brutal murder of a young woman. Now it seems his past has caught up with him when he finds himself in a case of another missing young woman on his own turf in the quiet fields of Ohio. The girl, Megan Beemer was reported missing from the Columbus area and was last seen at a party where a high school band from Ed’s area was performing. Between the band and the local kids who were or may have been at the same event, and with the help of a woman detective from Columbus, Ed has to unfold the story of who was at the party and how they might have interacted with Megan. When Megan’s body is found in a local creek, Ed has to struggle with his past and the demons that have stayed with him from the earlier murder in NY which has been the center of his nightmares for years. Ed Runyon is a damaged character, but one who shows his human side in his empathy and depth of commitment to solve this crime and find justice for the victim. We can only hope we’ll see more of Ed Runyon. This one was a great read!

City Problems by Steve Goble, (List Price: 26.95, Oceanview Publishing, 9781608094431, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White

Because I work in the book world, sometimes I forget that not every person is a reading-obsessed nerd. This book put into words what I’ve never been able to: reading takes you to another place. Reading changes your entire world in a literal way and in figurative ways. I loved reading quotes from my favorite writers about how reading transformed their worlds.

Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White, (List Price: 25, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374115265, July 2021)

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

This is it! My favorite middle-grade book of 2021. Full of adventure, humor, and friendship, Kiki’s story had me hooked from start to finish. I laughed, cried, and audibly gasped as the story unfolded through the lens of her vivid imagination. I particularly liked the handling and validation of Kiki’s struggles with anxiety. Great for fans of Aru Shah, Inkheart, or anything by Rick Riordan- Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is not to be missed!

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna, (List Price: 17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593206973, July 2021)

Reviewed by Mary Louise Callaghan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

S.E Crosby is the real deal. He is rejuvenating the mystery scene in a way not seen since Elmore Leonard during his prime. And his new novel is the perfect example of how. This story of two ex-cons, fathers, seeking answers to the murders of their married sons has it all. Fast-paced and relentless, it is an excellent look at our culture wars through the eyes of a parent who can’t understand his child’s choices. Super smart, incredibly entertaining, and all-around satisfying this is a book no one should skip!

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250252708, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

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On the Day the Horse Got Out by Audrey Helen Weber

On the Day the Horse Got Out is one of those books that feels like a classic—it’s got the rhythm and nonsensical vibe of a nursery rhyme, and beautifully rendered illustrations that recall Tomie dePaola, Sergio Ruzzier, and Carson Ellis. Perfect for reading aloud, especially at bedtime—it’s a recipe for dreams filled with beribboned comets, giant flowers, and horses leaping through starry, cloud-puffed skies.

On the Day the Horse Got Out by Audrey Helen Weber, (List Price: 18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316459846, June 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler

Part mystery, part family drama, with a dash of romance, The Tiger Mom’s Tale is a story of two times. Lexa is grieving the death of her biological father, whom she only met once as a teen in Taiwan. Told through flashbacks of that ill-fated meeting, we revisit with Lexa the days spent meeting her father, biological sister, stepmother, and extended family, and the impact it had not only on her life but those closest to her. An impactful story about the power of family and connections.

The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler, (List Price: 17, Berkley, 9780593198728, July 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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How to Break an Evil Curse by Laura Morrison

The idea of a twisted fairy tale is nothing new, but this book’s “dear reader” style and the changes it chooses to make to the traditional format are absolutely fantastic. I absolutely devoured this book. I was laughing one minute, and holding my breath in terror the next! If you like modern interpretations of classic stories, with curses, ghosts, princesses, with a healthy dose of laughter in between – read this book now!

How to Break an Evil Curse by Laura Morrison, (List Price: 18.95, Black Spot Books, 9781733599481, July 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

I started off laughing out loud at Gilda’s inner monologue. The clever writing matches her state of mind and drew me in right away. It took me maybe a third of the book to realize that she was going to get a lot worse. She might lose her mind entirely. I was a little ticked off that this sweet, funny girl was going to be sacrificed to the literary fiction gods for the sake of seriousness. But, then, she wasn’t. I loved this book, then worried for it, then loved it all over again. It’s such a great illustration of what happens to members of a family where all hurts are stuffed, all bad things swept under the rug. Austin weaves the larger narrative into Gilda’s particular story so well that I wasn’t even aware of what she was doing. When that damn cat shows up under the steps, I nearly cheered. Bravo! This may not be an easy hand-sell, but I’m going to give my best shot.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, (List Price: 26, Atria Books, 9781982167356, July 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

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The Cruelty Is the Point by Adam Serwer

I’ve followed Serwer’s articles in the Atlantic for several years. In this collection of his most moving pieces, he’s added a short introduction to each one with new insights and background. Bonus – Kevin Kruse blurbed it.

The Cruelty Is the Point by Adam Serwer, (List Price: 28, One World, 9780593230800, July 2021)

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder’s bark is just as good as her bite with her wholly unique voice and razor-sharp sense of humor. At once weird, darkly funny, moving, relatable and deliciously f*cked up, Nightbitch is a rallying howl to women, and especially mothers, everywhere.

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, (List Price: 26, Doubleday, 9780385546812, June 2021)

Reviewed by Danielle Raub, Itinerant Literate Books in North Charleston, South Carolina

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Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson

I didn’t want these letters to end so I read only a few pages every day. Willie Nelson shares stories of his life and his music but oh, so much more. The world would be a kinder and more loving and sensible place if we could all follow Willie’s advice on how to get through difficult times and take care of each other. Jokes and laughter fill every page and you will find yourself laughing any crying at his sage advice and hilarious life observations.

Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson, (List Price: 27.99, Harper Horizon, 9780785241546, June 2021)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

For fans of love triangles and fierce heroines that kick butt, These Hollow Vows is a dark fantasy full of twists and betrayals. I found it a delightful story that I couldn’t help but tear through. The author’s writing is engaging as much as it is enchanting and I have a feeling that Brie is going to charm many readers. I can’t wait for the next installment!

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan, (List Price: 17.99, HMH Books for Young Readers, 9780358386575, July 2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story On the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

This is one freaky book, scary as all get out, and really, really, hard to put down! I was reading late the night (3pm) and the story was cresting on one of the many waves that keep the plot roiling when out of the corner of my eye I saw my bedroom door slowly begin to creak mournfully open. Needless to say I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Turns out it was just my cat stretching out but that incident just shows how immersed I got into this creepy good book.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig, (List Price: 28.99, Del Rey, 9780399182136, July 2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

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If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann

Really large numbers are difficult for us (including adults!) to understand, so I loved the way this book broke down statistics about the world as if it only had 100 people. The global village concept is really neat. Not only is this easier to visualize the differences and inequalities in our world, but it also makes the world seem a little less large, and a little bit more like a village.

If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann, (List Price: 17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers, 9780593310700, July 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

This has been one of my favorite movies for years, so I decided to finally read the book. So glad I did. Much more character development and more storylines. The relationship between Ruth and Idgie is a true love story in the book and it is beautiful how the town accepts it as completely natural. What a bold writing for Ms. Flagg in 1986. I loved how the book included Sipsey’s recipes in the back and the Afterward was lovely.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, (List Price: 18, Ballantine, 9780449911358, March,1993)

Reviewed by Helen Adkins, Story On the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner

What an awesome sequel! So much of the first was about Moth learning her history, but this new installment is more about learning herself, which I adore. Her mom’s romantic subplot is also a great addition, and the added strength of the three Hush women is a sight to behold.

The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner (List Price: $12.99, Aladdin, 9781534431485, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Give My Love to the Savages by Chris Stuck

Stories built on foundations of unbalanced karma, the self identifying itself and male douchebaggery where (oftentimes) the inner pessimistic optimist lets the outer optimistic pessimist’s joy really bum him out, only to then retaliate with focused blind passion. I was introduced to the term “get your poops in a group” in this collection, and that, in a nutshell, is the goal of its protagonists, though some poops do get lost here and there.

Give My Love to the Savages by Chris Stuck (List Price: $25.99, Amistad, 9780063029972, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Georgia in the days immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, Harris’ characters display the best and the worst responses to the new order. Brutal yet hopeful, this one’s a slow burn until you realize you’re so caught up in the story you can’t possibly stop reading.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, (List Price: 28, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316461276, 2021-06-15)

Reviewed by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

In a near-futuristic Toronto, blood contains enough genetic material to determine people’s career, their success, and even love life–and for Voya and her family, it also contains an ancestral link to powerful magic. Until, possibly, Voya. As her bloodline hangs in the balance, Voya has to come to terms with who she is, where she comes from, and who she really loves to become the witch she’s always wanted to be. This futuristic fantasy is POWERFUL, to say the least.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury, (List Price: 19.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534465282, June, 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu

I hadn’t read anything by Marjorie Liu prior to the Monstress series, but with how much I love that, combined with the stunning cover by Sana Takeda, how could I resist her short story collection? A sweet sapphic Sleeping Beauty retelling, a runaway princess finds a new quirky family, an apprentice using dolls to seek revenge on her teacher, a villain’s shot at redemption. Liu’s stories gave me goosebumps, made me swoon, and at times cracked me up. This definitely a collection to have.

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu, (List Price: 16.95, Tachyon Publications, 9781616963521, June 2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond

The moment I cracked this memoir, I knew I should fasten my seatbelt–what a jaw-dropping ride it was! The unconventional childhood of Cheryl Diamond took her and her family all over the world, fleeing INTERPOL from place to place, losing and gaining identities, following highly rehearsed rules to protect their cover, and never quite finding a place to belong. The pages are filled with adventure, humor, and deep sadness. Nowhere Girl is so gorgeously written and impossible to put down. It is truly a tribute to human resilience.

Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond, (List Price: 27.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616208202, June, 2021)

Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim

Korean American witches! Bulgogi tacos and boba tea portals! This RRP grabbed my attention with the clans of Korean witches and kept it with the strong sister bond and Riley choosing kindness as her strength. There was lots of betrayal and twists and action that made this a fast and exciting read–but it never got overwhelming. The whole cast is great, the world-building is awesome, complex-but-understandable, and the food sounds delicious (I’m REALLY wanting to try bulgogi tacos.) I totally guessed wrong on what the last fallen star was so it was fun that the ending wasn’t predictable. There is a sequel so it ends in a way that makes you want to read the next one, but for the most part, everything is resolved in a way you don’t want to throw the book across the room after the last page.

The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim, (List Price: 16.99, Rick Riordan Presents, 9781368059633, May, 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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Dear Senthuran by Awaeke Emezi

A dazzling and devastating look into the life of one of the most unique voices of modern lit. Read to learn how an Ogbanje navigates the highs and lows of success. You may have more in common with a god than you think. (would ‘spirit’ be a better substitute for ‘god’ here? I can’t recall if they refer to themselves as ‘god’ or ‘godly’ throughout) Emezi paints their world with a set of custom brushes. No matter the angle of your view, the picture comes to life in this book. Although these letters are personal and specific, the messages relayed will resonate with a wide audience. The prose, as always, is visceral, raw, and unflinching. The words center around heartbreak and personhood, destruction and growth. A sibling book to their astounding debut, Freshwater.

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi (List Price: $27.00, Riverhead Books, 9780593329191, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Caroline Bergeron, Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans, Louisiana

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Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng

Linda Rui Feng pulls you in with the intertwined stories of four individuals starting during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 60’s and ending up in America in the 80’s. You will love these characters and be moved by the storytelling in this engrossing debut.

Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng (List Price: $26, Simon Schuster, 9781982129392, 5/11/2021)
Reviewed by Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

That first day of school can be hard on anyone, but especially if your name is looonnng, AND has two s’s, and if your style is a little more colorful than your new classmates. But no matter what, it is important to be yourself. Stunning illustrations reminiscent of the brilliant Molly Bang bring this important ‘first day of school” book to life This one is a Must-have for rising kindergartners.

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (List Price: $17.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780525582120, 6/15/2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

This was my first time reading Rachel Lynn Solomon’s YA, and now I want to go back and read everything she’s written. I loved the representation in this book: not only are the characters racially diverse, but there is also great LGBTQ representation, plus the main character has OCD and a side character has depression. It is great to see so many different kinds of characters in one book. The set-up is perfect for a sweet romance: Quinn Berkowitz is the daughter of wedding-planner parents, and she’s expected to join the family business officially after college. But Quinn feels jaded about romance and wants to pursue her own dreams. A great book about finding yourself!


We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon (List Price: $19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534440272, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles

As a child advocate for the family court system, I have a pretty good idea of what foster care is like. Sarah Sentilles is spot on in her memoir about her and her husband’s experience training and becoming foster parents. Sentilles accurately portrays the emotions of the parents, foster parents, social workers, and children involved. She uses examples from animals and plants to show techniques of care in the natural world. But even after they accumulate this knowledge, Sarah and her husband underestimate the pull on their heartstrings at the possibility of a child’s loss from their lives.

Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles (List Price: $28, Random House, 9780593230039, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Linda Hodges, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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The Marvelous by Claire Kann

Jewel Van Hanen created a video diary app several years ago called Golden Rule. Since then, she’s held 9 weekend retreats on her estate for a very select few group of users. But a year ago, she dropped out of the public eye. Now she’s back with a new weekend, but this one’s different. It will be a weekend filled with puzzles and games and at the end, two winners will receive a big cash prize. Told through the POV of three of the six competitors, The Marvelous will keep you on your toes with nonstop riddles and action.

The Marvelous by Claire Kann (List Price: $18.99, Swoon Reads, 9781250192691, 6/8/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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