The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins proves just how timeless the Jane Eyre story is, by putting the madwoman in the attic of a modern-day mansion in an Alabama suburb. The dark story is easy to devour, and the characters are people you might have met before — maybe while walking the dog in your own neighborhood. Everyone is keeping secrets, from Jane, the young dog-walker, to Eddie Rochester, the recently widowed homeowner. You’ll love teasing out the secret of what happened to the glamorous Bea, whose body was never found after a boating accident at Smith Lake.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (List Price: $16.99, St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250245502, 11/2/2021)

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

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The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo

Lovers of early Diane Ackerman, Michael Pollan, and possibly Ruth Reichl will enjoy this collection of alphabetically saluted fruits! Essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends the culinary, medical, and personal in a book of essays, accompanied by recipes that you will probably never use but are fascinating to read! Lebo’s chops both literary and gustatory are fully exercised in this fascinating collection. It’s full of surprises! One page you’ll be drooling and the next will make you nauseous, even fearful for our intrepid explorer of all things fruit. Much of the book is personal and shares some common ground with Cheryl Strayed. Great gift for a young chef, plant lover, or poet!

The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo (List Price: $28, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374110321, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett is a master storyteller who has created an intergenerational tale full of place, relevant commentary, the complexities of human nature, and life’s unexpected turns. I was sucked into the story from the beginning and absolutely loved how the idea of a “vanishing half” kept presenting itself in the storyline. Wow, this was just so smart and effortlessly crafted. I didn’t want my reading experience to end!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, 6/2/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford

A fresh-faced Baltimore native initially enters New York City trying to emulate her cool uptown NYC native friend from college. Ultimately it is through loyalty to the memories and movies of her childhood that she becomes “Astrid,” the in-house fortune teller at the hottest club in town. The beat of the Lower East Side in the 1980s leaps off the page as “Astrid” bounces through friends, drugs, fun and danger.

Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982153656, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

Returning to his hometown on military leave, Mick walks into a whole slew of family problems that he initially attempts to avoid, secluded in a cabin and chock-full of bourbon. Being called on to assist in tracking down a murderer puts him hesitantly back on his feet. It’s a distraction and we immediately see that he’s equally brilliant and broken enough to solve (kinda sorta) the mystery with ease. But even with a name like The Killing Hills and a body discovered in the first few pages, I still look back on the murder mystery as the book’s B-plot. Chris Offutt paints Appalachia so brilliantly, that, though pleasantly so, it’s distracting. The towns in which growth just means a larger hospital, diners exchanged for faster food, a new prison and improved state roads that aid travelers in quickly passing through without noticing much more than the aforementioned. Populated for generations by a handful of families who in turn depopulate via hard living and occasional vengeance. Driven by conflicting nostalgia, ill-defined chivalry and a hangover, Mick’s story is either one of a farewell visit or a return towards retirement

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt (List Price: $26, Grove Press, 9780802158413, 6/15/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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All of Us by Kathryn Erskine, Alexandra Boiger (Illus)

This book would make a great bedtime story! I loved the pictures and the simple message of appreciating everyone’s unique contribution to the world.

All of Us by Kathryn Erskine, Alexandra Boiger (Illus) (List Price: $17.99, Philomel Books, 9780593204696, 5/18/2021)

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

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Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

I love a good novel-in-verse! This book is perfect for any young reader who has arrived at a new school and does not fit in with their new classmates. Nurah’s family has moved from Pakistan to Peachtree City, Georgia, so we get to see her tackle her culture shock and overcome her shyness in order to stand up not only for herself but for others in need.

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi (List Price: $16.99, HarperCollins, 9780063044708, 5/11/2021)

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

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Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay

Becca and KJ are cousins, both about to graduate from high school. But because their mothers are estranged, they don’t know each other at all. When their maternal grandfather dies, they have to come together for the reading of his will. In it, their grandfather has given both of the girls and both of their mothers a nice sum of money. The only catch is that the girls must complete a five-part bucket list before they get the money. The list is a set of things the grandfather always wanted to do, but his mounting agoraphobia wouldn’t let him. I LOVE that we have a story that, at its root, is about friendship. And while there’s a smidge of romance, it’s FAR from the main plot. It took me a moment to warm up to the two girls, but in the end, I enjoyed them, flaws and all.

Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay (List Price: $17.99, Running Press Kids, 9780762472291, 5/11/2021)

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

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The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Tetley Abednego lives on a floating patch of trash (much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists here and now), the only solid ground left on a flooded earth. Tetley’s not alone but she is the only one who knows the simple, vital, and lifesaving truth that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world. The Past Is Red is an electrifying parable for this era of climate change, as bitterly optimistic and cheerfully furious as this dire hour demands. All that, and its hilarious and heroic protagonist is sure to steal that gorgeous garbage patch in your chest you call a heart.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (List Price: $20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 7/20/2021)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Patricia Engel’s new book is a true gem. A family story where each voice is equally interesting and dynamic. A great examination on the brutish nature of the US towards people traveling stateside looking for opportunity. Your heart breaks and mends and breaks all over again for this family. In fewer than 200 pages, Engel works magic.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (List Price: $25, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 9781982159467, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by James Harrod, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I find that I’m very hit or miss with short story collections but The Office of Historical Collections is a total gem. It’s full of captivating stories and characters; there wasn’t a single story that didn’t suck me in! Evans tackles topics like race, womanhood, and the human condition with nuance and grace. So good!

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9781594487330, 11/10/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese

From the publisher: “Until now, Outer Banks native Evie Austin has been the baddest girl on the planet. What comes next?”

I really enjoyed this novel–the pacing is good, the characters’ stories are compelling, and the small beach town setting is so well-described I can picture it clearly.

The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese (List Price: $25.95, Blair, 9781949467161, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog by Lisa Papp

With beautiful illustrations and a sweet message about patience and caring, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog is an awesome picture book for kids 4-8 years old. This is the third “Madeline Finn” book (previous were the Library Dog and the Shelter Dog). In this one, little Madeline helps her dog train to visit nursing home residents and learns that some people need more time to make friends.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog by Lisa Papp (List Price: $17.99, Peachtree Publishing Company, 9781682631492, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Serena Wyckoff, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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The Plot by Jean Hanff

What a fascinating and eclectic novel this is! It starts out as a sardonic look at the writing life, the trials and tribulations that all but the biggest best sellers face. Our guide is Jake Bonner, erstwhile golden, now a down on his luck teacher at a third rate MFA program. That is until he meets a student who has an idea that will storm the literary world. An idea that dies with the student shortly after until Jake resurrects it and changes his life forever. From there it morphs into thriller land while exploring such themes as cultural appropriation, the ethics of borrowing, and what is an idea and who does it belong too, as whiffs of Stephen King (Misery), John Boyne (A Ladder to the Sky) trail through the pages while she name drops Marilynne Robinson and others. This is going to be a fun one to talk with others about and I can’t wait.

The Plot by Jean Hanff (List Price: $39.99, Celadon Books, 9781250790767, 5/11/2021)

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

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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Having grown up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist church, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I saw the secret double lives of some of us. Rebelling against the submit-to-authority messages on Saturday night, but sitting pious and submissive come Sunday morning services was de rigueur. Deesha Philyaw’s book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies gives voice to secret lives that I know for sure are lived and true. The need for acceptance, for absolution, for grace is ever-present in familiar relationships as well as those in the church. These short stories are divine.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz, historical fiction go-to for middle school, has moved from WWII to more contemporary times with his newest novel Ground Zero. Told from the viewpoint of two teens on opposite sides of the globe, Gratz reframes the 9/11 story for the eyes and ears of young readers. This one is sure to be an instant bestseller.

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz (List Price: $17.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338245752, 2/2/2021)

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

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Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

I adored this fun and impressive debut! Quinn is one of the few black students at a prestigious private school; she finds refuge in writing and making lists in her journal. Her journal goes missing and someone begins to blackmail her with her deepest and darkest secrets. Quinn freaks out, and has to begin working with Carter, a fellow black student who she has never gotten along with. Soon, the hate the hate they had for one another dissolves as they connect to retrieve her journal while being forced by Quinn’s blackmailer to complete Quinn’s lists. This book is about facing your fears, being honest, and falling in love.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780063024793, 5/4/2021)

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

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How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada

This book haunts me. I can’t stop thinking about it! “M” is a seven year old girl in Chile growing up with a father “D” who is a traveling salesman who sells hardware. Her mother is chronically depressed and, while loving, incapable of looking after her daughter much of the time. Told from M’s perspective, we go with her and D from place to place when he takes her out of school to go on his sales trips without her mother’s knowledge. She’s sort of his “buddy” and “junior salesman” traveling companion and it’s disturbing to see this child smoke and drink coffee in companionship with the other salesmen in the book. Ghosts of Pinochet’s Desaparecidos appear and disappear between the pages. It’s a book that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer (Trans.) (List Price: $19.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142308, 2/16/2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Kalamata’s Kitchen by Sarah Thomas, Derek Wallace, Jo Kosmides Edwards (Illus)

Super cute and imaginative read! Kalamata is afraid to start school, but she takes a trip through a magical world of food with her alligator pal Al Dente where she finds her bravery admits the aromas and flavors she loves. It’s adorable and will make you hungry!

Kalamata’s Kitchen by Sarah Thomas, Derek Wallace, Jo Kosmides Edwards (Illus) (List Price: $17.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780593307915, 7/6/2021)

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

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The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken

Each of these twelve stories felt like a gift. Elizabeth McCracken has such insight into our ugliest, most deep-seated emotions that she dresses up with just a touch of delightful weirdness. Highlights include a story of a distraught mother finding comfort in challah bread that reminds her of her dead children; interconnected stories about a young couple working through various family baggage; and a story about two men confronting their fears of commitment and fatherhood during a day trip to Schlitterbahn (the iconic Texan German-themed waterpark, for those who don’t know). I tried to savor every story, but I couldn’t resist reading more than one every time I picked up this book!

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken (List Price: $26.99, Ecco, 9780062971289, 4/13/2021)

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

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Parachutes by Kelly Yand

Parachutes is a story I won’t soon forget. This coming-of-age tale is told from the perspectives of teenagers Dani and Claire as they find their worlds turned upside down. Claire is ripped from her wealthy life in Shanghai to attend a high school in California where Dani is her new host sister. Claire finds herself quickly immersed in a new group of friends as she tries to adjust to her new life. But debate star Dani De La Cruz has problems of her own, and the two don’t exactly hit it off. However, they eventually find themselves leaning on one another as they tackle situations too big to handle alone.

Parachutes by Kelly Yand (List Price: $18.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062941084, 5/26/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, Avery Fischer Udagawa (Trans.), Miho Satake (Illus.)

It’s summer break! There’s time for fun and friends, but Kazu has decided to investigate a paranormal occurrence tied to the history of his street, Temple Alley. As Kazu and his friends discover new clues about the past by talking to family members, nagging neighbors, and even reading ancient magazines, they realize that they might have to rely on their peculiar neighbor, Ms. Minakami, to solve the mystery. Complete with a story within a story, this summertime sleuth is mischievous and magical.

Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, Avery Fischer Udagawa (Trans.), Miho Satake (Illus.) (List Price: $18, Restless Books, 9781632063038, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, Allison Markin Powell (trans.)

Imagine Edgar Allen Poe and Will Christopher Baer teaming up across space and time to rewrite Catcher in the Rye, but in Japan. What you’d get is The Gun. This one-sitting read is darkly engrossing, lyrically captivating, and a stunning debut from a now well-established author. Wow.

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, Allison Markin Powell (trans.) (List Price: $14.95, Soho Crime, 9781616957681, 1/24/2017)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith

I listened to this on audio (from libro.fm/avidbookshop) and really loved it. I’m a longtime lover of being outdoors, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I started growing potted plants on my own in earnest. This book highlights the ways in which gardening, in all its forms, has a demonstrably positive impact on your mind, your body, your relationships, and the world. Just a lovely tome no matter if you’re never planning to take care of plants or if you’re a master gardener.

The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith (List Price: $28, Scribner, 9781476794464, 7/7/2020)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

In this story that spans five generations of women in Cuba, Texas and Florida, you come away with a rather complex picture of immigration plights and political and social pressures. The recurring theme is a book—an aptly named book— that unites the women in a beautifully written, heart-wrenching story. It reminds us that every woman is created with multiple layers whether she knows it or not.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250776686, March 2021)

Reviewed by Easty Lambert-Brown, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

With modern and 18th century London as the setting for this book, a conflicted woman who finds a mysterious bottle becomes obsessed with discovering its origins, leading her to a 1700s female apothecary who helps other women of the dark time “dispense” of bad men. Incredibly atmospheric, I didn’t want to climb out of this one. A dark yet hopeful portrait of female fears and female empowerment both then and now.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (List Price: $27.99, Park Row, 9780778311010, March 2021)

Reviewed by Shari Stauch, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

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Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff

An absolute pleasure to read! Fish and Bread are so lovable. The way they feel like the very embodiment of childhood makes you want to be them; the grief and sorrow they experience makes you want to hug them. The writing brings you right into this small town of Claypot, Wisconsin and you instantly fall in love with these troubled characters. Lose yourself in the isolated woods with these boys and run away with them on this adventure. This book is like a cool, stormy night spent curled up in a warm bed.

Find You First by Linwood Barclay (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780063031906, April 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah Rose Summers, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

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The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb

Jobb captures the hypocrisy, class differences, and gender inequality of the times in an extensively researched non-fiction telling of the forgotten nineteenth century serial killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream. Jobb takes his research of Dr. Cream’s life, court appearances, and death and turns it into an account that reads like a crime novel that is both grim and hard to put down.

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb (List Price: $27.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616206895, June 2021)

Reviewed by Ashley Bohinc, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

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Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

How are two Japanese 14-year-olds to deal with continuous bullying by their classmates and still have the presence of mind to genuinely care about others and question their place in their community? This is more than a story about bullying—it delves into the raw and moral relationships that most people don’t experience until they are adults. Beautiful to read, thoughtful in intent, and worthy of remembering.

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett (Trans.) (List Price: $23.00, Europa Editions, 9781609456214, May 2021)

Reviewed by Easty Lambert-Brown, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Project by Courtney Summers

An alluring psychological thriller set in New York, this one had me questioning everything until the very end. Lo and Bea were as close as two sisters could be, entwined like two halves of the same whole. That is, until a fatal car accident left Lo near death and pushed Bea into the arms of the enigmatic Unity Project, an organization that has been called a cult by some and savior by others. The chapters written from the viewpoint of Bea were brilliant, peeking into the mind of a sister willing to sacrifice everything to save her only little sister.

The Project by Courtney Summers (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Emma Wood, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

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People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry

It’s hard to follow up a book that was as good as Beach Read, yet Emily Henry has done it again! She really knows how to suck you in with her characters and get emotionally involved. If you enjoy the opposites attract, friends-to-lovers and slow burn romance, you will definitely enjoy this!

People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry (List Price: $16, Berkley, 9781984806758, 5/11/2021)

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

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Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler

Georgia’s dad was an artist before he died. Now Georgia struggles with his legacy, with people thinking they know him because of his art. Her best friend Theo is the only one who might understand, except he’s also focused on art, especially his own. And while Georgia’s own art has always been important to her, it’s taken a backseat to figuring out the mystery of what her dad’s last unfinished painting was supposed to be. A heartfelt story about art and grief and friendship for anyone trying to determine where they fit in their own life when everything has changed.

Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler (List Price: $16.99, Greenwillow Books, 9780063027008, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Being Korean American and already a fan of Michelle Zauner’s music under the Japanese Breakfast moniker, I was predisposed to love this book. Having read the title essay in the New Yorker I was predisposed to love this book. Even so, I was struck by just how much I loved it. I’m so grateful for this book — for how it walks through grief not as a way to leave it behind, but as a way to remember its exact shape. I’m grateful for its funny, self-deprecating and wise observations, and for its difficult beauty.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (List Price: $26.95, Knopf, 9780525657743, 4/20/2021)

Reviewed by Steve Haruch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Alex is a teenager with a secret–he can see the future when he touches objects and people. Sometimes it’s mundane, like seeing him put on his own shoes, and sometimes it’s devastating, like seeing his little brother Isaiah’s gravestone. Alex knows he probably can’t change the future, can’t stop all the ways death might come for his brother–especially in a neighborhood gripped with racial tension–but maybe he has time to connect with Isaiah before he loses him for good. This book will gut you in all the right ways.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris (List Price: $18.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534445451, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, Melissa Sweet (Illus.)

Judith Scott was a fiber artist with Down Syndrome; she lived in an institution for 35 years before learning to create mixed media sculptures. I loved this beautifully heartfelt book by Judith’s sister Joyce; I particularly appreciated the reminder that too often we keep people who are different from us at a distance.

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, Melissa Sweet (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780525648116, 6/8/2021)

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

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A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

The 16th century meets the 21st in Allison Epstein’s thrilling debut novel, A Tip for the Hangman. It’s 1585, and aspiring playwright Christopher Marlowe is recruited as a spy while still an impoverished Cambridge scholar. His task: to help foil an alleged Catholic plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. Blending fact and fiction, and period detail with modern sensibilities, Epstein deftly creates a heady mix of intrigue, drama and romance in this captivating page-turner.

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein (List Price: $26.95, Doubleday, 9780385546713, 2/9/2021)

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

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The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott

Arnott’s writing evokes the deep anxiety that can only be touched by the power and quiet, terrifying fury of nature. The Rain Heron is a contemporary mythos and environmental dystopian, with talons.

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott (List Price: $16, FSG Originals, 9780374539306, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib’s exploration of Black performance in America is a cultural keystone that is chillingly relevant. Whether discussing the fact that a knowing look or advice on a route from a cashier is a form of a living Green Book that still exists because there are places Black people are not safe, to the origin of the card game spades or the difference between showing out or showing off, at the heart A Little Devil in America circles back to the fact that Black Americans have been forced to survive in places they were not welcome. The section on Black funerals pierced my heart. This book needs to be read, taught, underlined and discussed.

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (List Price: $27, Random House, 9781984801197, 3/30/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter by Beth McMullen

My ten-year-old son and I read this book together and we loved it! As soon as we finished it, and with the foreshadowing to the next book, he exclaimed, “I want the next book NOW!”

Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter by Beth McMullen (List Price: $17.99, Aladdin, 9781534456693, 8/25/2020)

Reviewed by Marcia Albert, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

We have always known that librarians are heroes, and this book is based on the true story of the amazing women working at the American Library in Paris, as they join the Resistance after World War II breaks out. On a different timeline, a teenage girl interviews her older neighbor, who is one of the French librarians, and discovers her bravery… but also her complicated past.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles (List Price: $28, Atria Books, 9781982134198, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simons Island, South Carolina

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

It could be argued that now is not the time to read post-apocalyptic stories of flu-flies and societal breakdowns. But I am hard-pressed to think of a time when The Electric Kingdom is not worth delving into. I loved absolutely everything about this book. With characters and prose that you can’t get enough of (Oh Kit, you had me from the moment we met in the library) this story is a captivating yet poignant reminder that hope and beauty can be found even in the midst of ruin; that the simplicity of survival can teach us more than a life of luxury ever could and most importantly, that we are all connected in ways our minds may only begin to understand. Defying genre, The Electric Kingdom is at once elegantly eerie and tragically comforting.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593202227, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Ashley Bryan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

How unsettled do you want to feel? Double it and that’s Remote Control. Okorafore’s prose is stunning as she constructs a world in which the unknown walks among us, delivering the mercy or vengeance of death where she wishes and simply traveling at other times. Sankofa’s search for answers does not come to a neat and tidy end, but isn’t that the true nature of things? Nothing will ever be completely understood.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250772800, 1/19/2021)

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

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Clovis Keeps His Cool by Katelyn Aronson, Eve Farb (Illus.)

An adorable take on the classic phrase, Clovis the bull and his precious Granny’s china shop totally stole my heart. It’s a great reminder for everyone at any age that one must practice mindfulness, but if you slip up, it’s okay—you just have to gather yourself up again, keeping calm and kind. Every face on every page is so expressive, and Clovis’ suspenders are too cute. This picture book made my day.

Clovis Keeps His Cool by Katelyn Aronson, Eve Farb (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Page Street Kids, 9781645672135, 8/17/2021)

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

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American Royals II: Majesty by Katharine McGee

Dramatic and soapy in the best way! This face-paced sequel to American Royals took turns I wasn’t expecting, and I enjoyed every second. After finishing Majesty, I’m even more obsessed with the initial premise of this series–American Royals, yes please!

American Royals II: Majesty by Katharine McGee (List Price: $18.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781984830210, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations is for the lovers, the wanderers, and those who are drawn to the beauty of the earth. The main character, Franny Stone, might be the focus of the novel…but the ocean, the birds in the sky, and the arctic are all equally important. Franny convinces a fishing crew to let her hitch a ride on their ship in the North Atlantic so that she can conduct an individual study on Arctic Terns and their migration. The fish are in short supply, the crew is a band of misfits, and Franny has an ulterior motive stemming from a troubled past. Little by little, all of the truths revealed are colored by the settings of Galway, Ireland and Scotland, Newfoundland/Greenland and ultimately the Antarctic continent. For me, there are two stories in this book: 1) The wanderlust that exists in many of us looking for a place (or a person) to call home. And though we may find it, the need for exploration never ceases. And 2) The conservation of the natural world and all of it occupants should not be discarded by humanity. All in all, the writing was excellent; the settings were majestic; the epilogue was magnificent.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (List price: $26.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by novel., Memphis, TN.

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Smoke by Joe Ide

Dodson’s back. Back again. Dodson’s back. Tell a friend. Or two. Or ten. My apologies to Eminem and to you, dear reader, for the possible ear worm I may have just planted but, THANK YOU Joe Ide! I’ve not laughed that loud, while reading, in some time. Truth be told, my wife tired quickly of me barging into her reading time to say, “Honey, wait until you have hear this bit”. Yeah, too much coffee and great writing so that to me. I’ve enjoyed all of the IQ series and, if I’m being honest, I was fairly sure this would be another solid run of the series but, probably not exceptional. Wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong. I love where Joe is taking us. The depth of the characters continues to develop at a wicked pace. The plot lines are becoming even more ferocious. And IQ keeps getting… smarter? Yep. And the ending? YIKES. Book six Mr. Ide? Bring. It. ON!

Smoke by Joe Ide (List Price: $28, Mulholland Books, 9780316531061, 2/23/2021)

Reviewed by Berkley McDaniel, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jenny Lawson is a genius. She can make me sob uncontrollably from both laughter and the heartbreakingly honest way she talks about mental illness. She takes the worst things in life and finds a way to laugh through them. Her ability to bring people together in a celebration of human awkwardness is just beautiful. This book provided much needed relief and escape from the divisiveness of the world.

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson (List Price: $27.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250077035, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

I couldn’t put this book down! (I stayed up until 6 AM to finish it.)I thoroughly enjoyed these two lost souls thrust into an arranged marriage as well as interplanetary politics and intrigue, mixed with an intriguing dose of cultural anthropology (the deft touches of cultural differences amongst the different planets). Crossover appeal for Romance readers, for sure

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (List Price: $17.99, Tor Books, 9781250758835, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Angela Trigg, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, Alabama

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Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews

For those who loved Social Creature and Gone Girl: Florence Darrow, our desperately dark protagonist, has been fired from her editing job and taken on the position of an assistant to the infamously anonymous Maud Dixon. What should be a privileged position turns into something completely the opposite after a horrible work trip to Morocco. Who is Maud Dixon? will keep you guessing ’til the end and even after you’ll still be asking questions (in the absolute best way possible).

Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (List Price: $28, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316500319, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Olivia Schaffer, The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia

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A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

A deep and delightful story of what it means to be part of a family. William, Edmund, and Anna discover enemies, friends, compassion, and the power of books are all part of their search for a forever home. Like cocoa on a winter day, this book will leave you cozy and smiling.

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus (List Price: $17.99, Margaret Ferguson Books, 9780823447053, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Susan Williams, M Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina

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Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter

Better Than the Movies is such a joy of a book! You’ve got enemies to lovers with a main character who has the energy of Jack Black’s character in The Holiday–goofy and sweet, full of love and loss, and of course, a deep, nerdy love for movie soundtracks. Better Than the Movies will have you squealing and swooning, and you definitely need this on your shelves!

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter (List Price: $18.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534467620, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me, A Childrens Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Lila has moved back home and is living with her Filipino family after a bad breakup. She’s also come back to help with the family’s restaurant. But when the local fool critic has never met a dish about which he had something nice to say passes out in his food at the restaurant and later dies, Lila’s the number one suspect. I love cozies and this was a nice, new addition to the genre with some Filipino flair! I loved the characters and look forward to reading more!

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (List Price: $16, Berkley, 9780593201671, 5/4/2021)

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

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Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Clay McLeod Chapman has not disappointed in his second novel! Eerie in the best way, the story follows five year-old Sean in 1983 and Richard, an art teacher, in 2013. What is supposed to be a fresh start for the boy and the man thirty years apart leads to horrific events for Sean/Richard and everyone around them. Chapman’s impeccable writing brings the scenes to life. From the first page, Chapman skillfully peppers humor throughout, making you comfortable before the inevitable horrific snap of the plot. It is an intriguing look at how actions in our childhood can haunt us into adulthood–sometimes literally haunt us.

Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman (List Price: $19.99, Quirk Books, 9781683692157, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Secret, Secret Agent Guy by Kira Bigwood, Celia Krampien (Illus.)

A cute read-aloud story with plenty going on in the pictures to keep little ones intrigued! The surprise ending makes this book extra fun.

Secret, Secret Agent Guy by Kira Bigwood, Celia Krampien (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534469211, 5/11/2021)

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

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Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

I opened this book’s beautiful cover to sample one story from the collection, but I couldn’t stop until I had read them all. Each piece packs a different sort of power, examining the subtleties of relationships—between friends, parents and children, husbands and wives, mothers and unborn children. The writing is raw and visceral, just as the title “Milk Blood Heat” suggests, and the characters’ feelings and bodies often can’t be contained, no matter how hard they might try. This collection will dazzle and unsettle you at the same time, and I highly recommend it!

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802158154, 2/2/2021)

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

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Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore is one of the most gifted fantasy writers of our time. When this book opened from the perspective of a many-tentacled sea creature at the bottom of the ocean, I was surprised and delighted to find myself completely comfortable knowing that this chapter would fit with the larger story so very satisfyingly. And I was right, of course. I am overwhelmed by my love for the Graceling realm and the brilliant way that Cashore has expanded on the world with each of the novels, building such strong, full characters and gorgeous wrought lore along the way. And now there are telepathic blue foxes! And silbercows! And The Keeper! And they all feel more real than my own world, having finished this novel so recently. I hold WINTERKEEP and Lovisa just as close to my heart as I do GRACELING, FIRE & BITTERBLUE and I really will read anything that Kristin Cashore writes.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (List Price: $19.99, Dial Press, 9780803741508, January 2021)

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

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

A beautiful story about love and loss, and how sometimes those things can be really complicated. Acevedo is obviously a master storyteller in both prose and verse. Clap When You Land is no exception to her brilliance. More than anything, I appreciate the reverence with which Acevedo writes. You can tell how important it is to her to tell stories about and for girls who are underrepresented in YA. Honestly, she is one of my author crushes (and I will read anything she writes).

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (List Price: $18.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062882769, 5/5/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Little Bat in Night School by Brian Lies

This story works on many levels: It’s great for any child nervous about attending school and it’s also a wonderful friendship and kindness story. Plus, all the fun you’ll have explaining why bats go to school at night!

Little Bat in Night School by Brian Lies (List Price: $14.99, HMH Books for Young Readers, 9780358269847, 6/29/2021)

Reviewed by Jill Hendrix, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández

This adorable, vibrant, and fantastical graphic novel perfectly captures the power and magic of friendship. Despite her best intentions, Manu somehow manages to get into trouble a lot–whether it’s with her teachers, classmates, or best friend, Josefina. Her magical powers are too much to handle, until one day, they disappear. Manu and Josefina try to get them back, but in doing so, make a choice with consequences far worse than any detention. Their friendship is strong, but are Manu and Josefina powerful enough to make things right?

Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández (List Price: $24.99, Graphix, 9781338264197, 10/19/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz

I know Annalee Newitz from their excellent work in speculative fiction and have been a fan for ages. They now take to the page with this delightful work of nonfiction exploring the deaths of four historic civilizations. If you enjoy the works of the late Tony Horowitz, Eric Larson, and Karen Abbott, you will love this book! Traveling to the ruins of these lost urban mega-cities, Newitz explores how they were founded, how they developed and what caused their demise. From Pompeii to Cahokia, located near present-day Saint Louis, we see how every day people lived and died and what caused their civilizations to collapse. The tone of the book is light and anecdotal with a touch of whimsy without shying away from the darker aspects of ancient history. Ultimately hopeful, the author shows us what we can learn from the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes as these doomed urban peoples without being preachy or sounding superior. Even if you don’t read much history, I can highly recommend this book as just a fabulous read!

Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz (List Price: $26.95, W.W. Norton & Company, 9780393652666, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch

Another entertaining addition to one of Righton Books’ favorite mystery series. Charles Lenox travels to the United States and becomes swept up in high society Newport, Rhode Island, where a beautiful young woman has died a suspicious death.

An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch (List Price: $27.99, Minotaur Books, 9781250767134, February 2021)

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

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American Delirium by Betina González

In an average Midwestern town, deer are attacking people. Retirees are training to hunt the animals down. Adults are choosing to abandon society and live in the woods. A local taxidermist finds a strange woman living in his closet. And much of this may be happening due to a mysterious hallucinogen. This story is beyond strange and surreal in the best way possible and I look forward to reading more by Argentine author Betina González in the future.

American Delirium by Betina González, Heather Cleary (Translated by) (List Price: $26.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250621283, 2/16/2021)

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

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Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro by Monica Brown, Mirelle Ortega

Small Room, Big Dreams is the story of Joaquin and Julián Castro, identical twin brothers born in San Antonio. Raised from a young age by their grandmother to love books and their mother to understand the importance of participating in their community through politics, Joaquin and Julián have dedicated their lives to service and improving their communities. I hope this book inspires children to become involved in their communities and dream big!

Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro by Monica Brown, Mirelle Ortega (List Price: $18.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062985736, 5/4/2021)

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

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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A stunning tale of perseverance, family, friendship, and hope, The Four Winds absolutely blew me away. Kristin Hannah describes a time in American history that is often overlooked through the eyes of characters so human I’m amazed they aren’t real people. Hannah weaves the struggles of the time seamlessly with ones any mother can relate to: working ten hours a day for mere pennies and a son who gets into fights at school; using a rope to guide her to the barn because the dust in the air is so thick she can’t see, then coming inside to an obstinate teenage daughter who just wants her dad. The reader can relate to Elsa enough that they can easily see themselves even in her most dire circumstances. The Four Winds tells the story of an American dream that isn’t meant for everyone, and how those left behind can band together to make that dream work for them. It’s one I will not soon forget.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (List Price: $28.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250178602, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Tia at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

A debut novel set in a tropical paradise, this story looks at race, class, gender, and privilege from many viewpoints. I look forward to reading what comes next from Cherie Jones.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316536981, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Project by Courtney Summers

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Orphaned and betrayed, Lo Denham seeks to uncover the truth about the organization that her sister thinks saved her. However, the closer Lo gets to the Unity Project, the more she struggles to make sense of her own traumatic past. Perfect for fans of dark YA thrillers, The Project is a chilling story sure to leave readers speechless.

The Project by Courtney Summers (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella

This warm, wonderful memoir in essays by Southern writer Elizabeth Passarella comes on the scene just when we need it most. In a series of funny, honest, personal stories, she breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions about Southerners, New Yorkers, Christians, Democrats, parents, and more in a way that will appeal to pretty much everyone, whether you fit into one of those groups or not. In reading about her ice maker, her child’s crib in the closet, her belief in thank-you notes, or her memories of her late father, I bet you’ll absolutely relate to Elizabeth Passarella’s stories about what it really means to find a home in the world.

Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella (List Price: $25.99, Thomas Nelson, 9781400218578, 1/19/2021)

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

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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

I devoured this book like a hungry polar bear with a jar of peanut butter. Gold’s debut is a sweet blend of friendship, conservation, and family. I adored April and her friendship with Bear, how they learned so much from each other. I was especially charmed by him teaching her to reach deep inside herself to roar, and how to put your ear to the earth to really listen. Both things all humans need to spend a little more time perfecting. I bet we’d be kinder to ourselves, each other, and nature if we did. Conservation has a soft spot in my heart and this story is a well-written balance of facing what feels like an unsurmountable problem with global warming and polar bear loss of habitat and giving children agency by listening, seeing a problem, and doing their best to make it right.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold (List Price: $19.99, HarperCollins, 9780063041073, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, Alabama

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My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee

Instead of the college semester abroad he was anticipating, a suburban New Jersey slacker ends up being hired by a high-octane Chinese entrepreneur who immerses him in the hedonistic lifestyles of Asian billionaires. This is the sixth book by the award-winning Chang-Rae Lee, and his dry wit and keen observations are instantly recognizable.

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9781594634574, 2/2/2021)

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

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Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley

I loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn’t get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books, January 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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The Truants by Kate Weinburg

Kate Weinberg’s debut novel of suspense weaves a tale of obsession, deception, and misguided love. Jess Walker is a young woman who enters an uninspiring university in East Anglia for the sole purpose of being a student of the charismatic professor of literature, Lorna Clay, who seems to have taken the position under a cloud of suspicion from her past. Clay will be conducting studies on the life and work of Agatha Christie, with an underlying theme, “People disappear when they most want to be seen.”

Jess not only falls under her thrall, but also that of her three new friends who introduce her to a lifestyle of excess and awakenings, with tragic and life-altering consequences.This is a moody, mesmerizing, and literary read.

The Truants by Kate Weinburg (List price: $17.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

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The Burning God by R. F. Kuang

With The Burning God, R.F. Kuang brings her Poppy War trilogy to a thunderously satisfying conclusion. Full scale war and destruction has come to the land of Nikan and Rin must once again rise to the challenge of saving her people without succumbing to her ever growing desires for power and revenge. Not many fantasies truly put a focus on the genocide, loss, and psychological damage that war brings to its victims but Kuang weaves these intricately into her story of godly abilities and conquest; loss and death always come hand in hand with victory. Kuang’s strong eye for character development is once again the shining star of the novel and readers who have been following since book one will have a hard time saying goodbye. A truly great modern fantasy trilogy and one that I look forward to recommending for years to come.

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang (List Price: $26, Harper Voyager, 9780062662620, 11/17/2020)

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

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Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Raffy LOVES cosplay. So, he’s been furiously working on an entry for a local convention with his friend May. But he has several obstacles, not the least of which is an unsupportive mother and his ex, Luca, who has entered with one of their other friends. But Raffy is a natural with a sequin and he’s sure he can pull this one off. This delightful romance-meets-cosplay book from Ryan La Sala is perfect timing for those of us with the blues from missing our favorite conventions this year.

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (List Price: $17.99, Sourcebooks Fire, 9781492682691, 1/5/2021)

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

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The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Lyrical prose, a love story too long untold, and exquisitely rendered characters too long ignored make for a haunting debut. The forbidden love story between Isaiah and Samuel pierces every page, their lives reverberating across the plantation, through the ancestors, and history itself. Infused with agony and love and joy and rage, every character’s story within these testaments acts as a spark, a collection of embers that sets fire to historical record and ignites a more complex history of enslavement and the Deep South.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (List Price: $27.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593085684, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

Wild Rain is great historically representative, slow burn romance between a lady rancher and a city slicker reporter. I loved seeing the diversity of the West as it really was, and the chemistry between the two leads sizzled. When can I get more of this series?

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins (List Price: $7.99, Avon, 9780062861719, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger

Simon’s life goal is to be an Animist–someone who can call on beings from the shadow realm adjacent to theirs to do good and keep the peace–but he’s not a very good one. When a town’s request for help goes unanswered by the Animists in charge, Simon decides to take matters into his own hands and sets off to deal with the monster–whom he discovers is actually a girl named Alice who doesn’t remember how she became a monster. Simon and Alice join forces to search out the secrets in Alice’s past, and in so doing find secrets that affect Simon and their whole world. A dark middle-grade fantasy that will appeal to fans of Kelly Barnhill, about identity and finding your self worth.

Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger (List Price: $16, HarperCollins, 9780062934796, February, 2021)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Don’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison, Daniel Wiseman (Illus.)

This is such a cool book!!! It explains body autonomy perfectly for very young children. Not only that, but it does so in a way that would make kids like Doug feel less alone about their preferences. Will definitely be recommending!

Don’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison, Daniel Wiseman (Illus.) (List Price: $16.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781984813022, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Ellen Linville, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman

Take Pride and Prejudice and set it in the mid 80s at a high school in Texas and you’ve got Pudge and Prejudice. Elyse and Jayne Nebbit have moved to Texas with their parents and three younger sisters. Their new school is obsessed with football and their star quarterback, Billy Fitz. And Elyse finds herself a little obsessed with Billy herself. We’ve all read retellings where the changes are obnoxious and make the story too far in tone and theme from the original. I’m glad to say that one is true to the original, while still updating it for 1980s Texas. This was a sweet, fun story about teens, but which works well for preteens as well.

Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman (List Price: $15.99, Wander, 9781496442833, 1/12/2021)

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

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Love and Other Lies by Ben McPherson

At the beginning, Love and Other Lies was a fast paced typical thriller to read. One which centered on a horrific event–the mass killing at a summer camp for teens, and the disappearance of one of the young campers. It was about the relationship between husband and wife, the love they still have for each other after 15 years of marriage and the lies they might be telling, and about their relationships with their teen daughters. Then you begin to realize what might have really happened and it suddenly becomes an extremely thought-provoking and unnerving story that could have easily been taken from true events. It shows the horrors that can occur with the rise of white supremacy, and how normal people with the best values can be infected by political ideology.

Love and Other Lies is not a feel good story by any means, but it is an important story with lots and lots of topics to discuss and a story that is definitely pertinent to the times in which we live. This is a book that you will think about for a long time after you put it down.

Love and Other Lies by Ben McPherson (List Price: $16.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062406149, 2/9/2021)

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

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Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

When I want a good book, but don’t want to do a search for a book I might like, I grab the latest Lisa Gardner book. I know I will find a great plot, characters and superb writing. This book just confirms my premise. Frankie leads an all-new cast of characters, and the novel is fast-paced look at a darker side of life. Most of us are fortunate to never be the victim of a violent crime, and your loved one disappearing is a particularly brutal example. When the police have been unsuccessful and hope seems lost, Frankie arrives. She is not a retired cop, private detective, well-funded or connected. She is a broke currently sober addict on the run from the demons of her past. She is flawed, relentless and brilliant in her determination. Another fantastic production from Lisa. It is a standalone so don’t delay!

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (List Price: $27, Dutton, 9781524745042, 1/19/2021)

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

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Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder

A. K. Wilder creates a delightful world of savants and phantoms: creatures made to serve those who call them. Ash is a non-savant who somehow gets the attention of phantoms that aren’t even supposed to acknowledge her when she doesn’t have a phantom of her own. Marcus is the heir to the throne Ash serves and she follows him to the mysterious island of Aku where he must tame his own powerful phantom. Their guide to Aku, Kaylin, has his own secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder (List Price: $18.99, Entangled: Teen, 9781640634145, 1/5/2021)

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

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Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson, Qin Leng (Illus)

This beautiful picture book without words tells a story of welcoming and acceptance. I love that the absence of text allows the reader to make up any story or dialogue they want. The pictures provide so much to talk about, and it would be easy to become so absorbed in this book that the time just passes by.

Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson, Qin Leng (Illus) (List Price: $16.99, Candlewick, 9781536201475, 1/5/2021)

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

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Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

If you’ve ever wondered if an adult book could be written to be accessible to not just YA but middle grade readers too, wonder no longer: the book of your dreams is here. Across the Green Grass Fields is a wonderful coming-of-age story with all the mandatory trappings: bullying, parental oversight, unicorns, evil queens, and an intersex main character. It’s Tanith Lee rewriting Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. This standalone novella is a wonderful entrance to the Hooflands, and I can’t wait to double back and read more.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213594, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

If you only read one book this year, this should be the one. It really puts many current issues such as climate change, immigration, and racism into a perspective you can feel personally by immersing you in the story and letting you identify with the characters in the book. Waiting for the Night Song is a lyrical and amazing story about nature and what will happen if we continue to ignore climate change. It is the story of wonderful, productive and caring people who live in fear because of immigration laws, a story about childhood trauma and the effect it has on the three children involved, a story about determination and doing what you believe is right regardless of the consequences, and above all else it is a heartfelt story about family and friendship and just how far and how many lies one will tell or how many secrets one will keep to protect them. If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing, put this at the top of your list. My favorite quote from the book: “When someone says you’re overreacting, but you know you’re right, keep reacting until it’s over.”

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton (List Price: $26.99, Forge Books, 9781250269188, 1/12/2021)

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

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Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Hate-to-love romance fans are going to enjoy this one! Paige is a successful business owner who doesn’t need a man in her life to complete her, but she does need a vacation and a break from work. After finding a secluded beach location to celebrate her being single the day after Valentine’s Day, she meets Lucas the bed and breakfast owner. He’s a real jerk to her–since all he needs in his life is his daughter and sister, he doesn’t need a girlfriend in his life to complicate things. But as they get to know each other during her stay, tensions rise physically and emotionally and they begin to question everything they stand for!

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker (List Price: $14.99, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 9781728216492, 1/19/2021)

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

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Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This had me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. If you love Greek mythology you will love this! Every seven years, nine Greek gods must walk the earth as mortals and the descendants of Ancient Bloodlines hunt them to steal their powers and immortality. Lore ran away from this world when her family was brutally murdered by a rival line. But she comes across her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena before a hunt, and after binding her fate with Athena, she enters the hunt to fight a new god and to avenge her family and save her home: New York City.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (List Price: $18.99, Disney-Hyperion, 9781484778203, 1/5/2021)

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

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Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

Nadia Owusu was born to a Ghanaian father and an Armenian-American mother who abandoned her when she was two. Growing up in parts of Africa as well as Europe before moving to the United States, she has spent much of her life feeling without a mother, home, nationality or racial identity only to be overwhelmed by the abundance of these things she possesses at other times. Part memoir and part cultural history, Owusu has crafted an incredibly powerful force of a book, one that I have learned more from than any other in a long time.

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu (List Price: $26, Simon & Schuster, 9781982111229, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Shipped by Angie Hockman

Henley has a job she loves at an adventure travel company, but between trying to get ahead there and taking classes for a higher degree, she doesn’t have time for family, friends, or even herself. But when she and a coworker are both up for a big promotion, she goes all in. The only trouble is that the coworker is her nemesis. Ever since he took credit for one of her ideas in his first week at the company, they’ve been at war. So, when as a test for the promotion, she and the dreaded coworker are sent on a cruise to the Galapagos, Henley is less than thrilled. I loved this sweet, friends-to-lovers romance! The wacky hijinks of the cruise, coupled with two people who hate each other, up for the same job, a misfit sister, and a large Russian lothario is a recipe for a fun read!

Shipped by Angie Hockman (List Price: $16, Gallery Books, 9781982151591, 1/19/2021)

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

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What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

I devoured the majority of What Could Be Saved in a single day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. As the oldest of four children, I’ve always been drawn to family dramas, and nothing strikes my core deeper than imagining the loss of a sibling, which is exactly what drives this novel. Liese O’Halloran Schwarz has created a heartbreakingly beautiful story told through alternating timelines from before and after the Preston family’s only son goes missing while they are living in 1970s Thailand to his sisters’ shocking discovery that he may still be alive in 2019. This is an emotional, meditative story about reconciling and accepting the life we have while making peace with the loss of the life that could have been. The perfect recommendation for readers who enjoy family stories like The Dutch House and The Last Romantics, I know for certain What Could Be Saved will be on my best of 2021 list.

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982150617, 1/12/2021)

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

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Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner

Growing up is hard. Add social media and an unattainable view of what beauty is and being a teenage girl feels like nothing will change and life is hell. When Journey recovers from her suicide attempt she must figure out how to go forward and how to interact with her family and friends. Achingly raw and beautifully written. A must read.

Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780063022300, 1/19/2021)

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

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