The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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To Be Honest by Michael Leviton

Michael Leviton grew up in what he describes as an “honesty cult.” His parents had little patience for half-truths, believing that absolutely nothing should be omitted, especially the details that make most people uncomfortable. As a consequence, Michael struggled to make friends, hold a job, or feel welcomed by others for most of his life. Eventually, heartbreak led him to question his honesty policy, and he began to explore what it would feel like to prioritize others’ feelings over the painful truth. Here, Michael narrates his story with humor, self-awareness, and–of course–honesty.

To Be Honest by Michael Leviton (List Price: $26, Abrams Press, 9781419743054, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

In Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Lily Hu and Kath Miller are gorgeously rendered against the glittering backdrop of San Francisco, escaping into the night for The Telegraph Club where they find themselves staring down a sort of freedom that they know they cannot leave behind. From the very first page, this is a novel that feels so incredibly full and rich with historical details and simmers with yearning and tension I simply could not put it down. Delving into the realities of 1950’s Chinese America identity, queer culture, McCarthyism & women in STEM, Lo has crafted a historical fiction novel of the absolute highest caliber.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (List Price: $18.99, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 9780525555254, 1/19/2021)

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

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The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis

Cat is getting married and she wants her two foster sisters and foster brother to be there. But they haven’t really kept up with each other, so she devises a plan to get them all back and connecting again. It might work, it might blow up in her face. But it’s sure to be entertaining!

The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis (List Price: $16.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062897855, 1/12/2021)

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

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The War Widow by Tara Moss

The War Widow was an intriguing mystery, an interesting and informative look at post war Australia in 1946 and an overall totally delightful read. Ms. Billie Walker has returned home after being a war correspondent in Europe to take over the Private Inquiry Agency of her late father. She is a fun, elegant, feisty and determined character who investigates the “old-fashioned” way: no internet, no cell phones, no data bases. The book is filled with intrigue, nasty criminals, beautiful fashions and lots of daring moves by Ms. Walker. I cannot wait to see what kind of trouble Ms. Walker finds herself in next.

The War Widow by Tara Moss (List Price: $26, Dutton, 9780593182659, 12/29/2020)

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

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The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams

A quirky, clever novel about words: the words we create to describe our world and the words we use to define ourselves. The entertaining story alternates between lexicographer Peter Winceworth in 1899 who spends his time placing mountweasels into Swansby’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary and Mallory, the young intern who is tasked with finding these words a century later.

The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams (List Price: $26.95, Doubleday, 9780385546775, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Kelley Barnes, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis

Fans of Romeo and Juliet retellings will love this especially with the diverse characters! Jerzie Jhames is competing for a lead role for a hip hop Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet–Roman and Jewel. She falls short of her dreams and becomes the understudy for Jewel, while the lead title goes to celebrity actress singer Cinny. As Jerzie wallows in her disappointment, she meets Zeppelin Reid, the handsome lead actor for Roman. It’s love at first sight, and as they get to know one another, they begin their own Romeo and Juliet story. I love reading teenage black girls stories, especially about their first love!

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335070623, 1/5/2021)

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

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A Busy Year by Leo Lionni

Winnie and Willie and Woody are friends. First, as January snow falls on Woody’s branches, later as her branches bloom and even later as her leaves begin to fall, the friends experience all a year has to offer. A fun way to learn about the seasons while also zeroing in on the qualities of a good friend, A Busy Year is a classic that deserves a spot on every child’s bookshelf.

A Busy Year by Leo Lionni (List Price: $8.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593301883, 1/12/2021)

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

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Outlawed by Anna North

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

I inhaled this propulsive and inventive story of a reimagined American West in the late 1800s. Ada, a midwife who finds herself unable to get pregnant is facing expulsion (or worse) in her village. She falls in with a charismatic outlaw named Kid and is whisked into a gang filled with autonomous women. Escapades ensue. Great writing, strong characters and a plot that moves along in a book that comes in just under 300 pages. Very impressive! I definitely recommend this genderbent Hole in the Wall Gang reimagining!

Outlawed by Anna North (List Price: $26, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635575422, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Bauer, union ave books in knoxville, Tennessee

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Marsha Is Magnetic by Beth Ferry, Lorena Alvarez (Illus.)

How does a scientist create a party that people want to come to? In Marsha’s case it takes experimentation and the scientific method to draw people to herself with “magnetic” personality! Or “magnets.” Cheerfully busy illustrations of a delightful young maker at work.

Marsha Is Magnetic by Beth Ferry, Lorena Alvarez (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, HMH Books for Young Readers, 9780544735842, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

Read This Next A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands is a whip-smart Victorian murder mystery featuring a remarkable cast of characters. Young girls are going missing and Inspector Cutter’s on the case with the help of a fake police officer (Cambridge drop out Gideon Bliss) and a young female journalist determined to write more than society pages. The disappearances seem to have a spiritual element to them and the first death scene is puzzling and compelling. O’Donnell’s 1893 London is so brilliantly written you’ll find yourself shivering instinctively.

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (List Price: $26.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142247, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I have always been fascinated with the history of the Dust Bowl and the Depression and Hannah brings it all alive. Confronted with the effects of man’s assault on the environment in the Texas Panhandle, the main character, Elsa Martinelli, has to weigh the decision of staying where she was raised and potentially starving or moving to California for a better life. The result is a constant affront on the lives of Elsa and her two children in a world that has little tolerance for outsiders and the afflicted. It is a story “of time and land and the indomitable will a a people.”

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

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

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Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Albert’s fairytales are filled with the dark beauty and decay of withering roses and fog-filled forests. Many of them are nightmare-inducing but all of them are too enthralling to put down and I wondered if Albert may have bespelled me herself; her prose is that good. Tales from the Hinterland is for girls too covered in thorns for a traditional tale and for all who dream of a dark starless sky.

Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (List Price: $19.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250302724, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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She Persisted: Harriet Tubman by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Chelsea Clinton, Gillian Flint

Harriet Tubman was one of my favorite people to learn about as a child, so I’m thrilled to have a new book to share with my nieces and the young readers at Bookmarks! In She Persisted: Harriet Tubman, Andrea Davis-Pinkney shares an inspiring portrait of the life of this American legend: daughter, slave, Underground Railroad conductor, nurse, spy, wife, and advocate for women’s rights. Gillian Flint’s illustrations bring the story to life, helping share Tubman’s story with a new generation.

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Chelsea Clinton, Gillian Flint (List Price: $14.99, Philomel Books, 9780593115657, 1/5/2021)

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

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Love Songs for Skeptics by Christina Pishiris

Zoe has her dream job from when she was a kid. She’s the editor of her favorite music magazine. The only problem is that it’s 2020 and print media is struggling. To save the magazine her plan is to score an interview with the super reclusive Marcie Tyler, who has been off the radar for 10 years. Unfortunately, to do that, she has to give lip service to the latest bit band, which is not on brand for the magazine in the least. And to deal with both, she has to work with the jerk publicist, Nick. But all isn’t bad. Her best friend and crush Simon is back in London and here to stay.

Love Songs for Skeptics by Christina Pishiris (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728217604, 1/5/2021)

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

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One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite have done it again, and more, with their sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones. This book kept me up into the early morning hours, furiously flipping pages, needing to know where things would end up for the Smith sisters. The story takes you on a real journey, jumping through history and back again, dissecting race relations in America with an unflinching eye; it is beautifully written, heartbreaking, disturbing and yet, ultimately, hopeful. I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335145802, 1/5/2021)

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

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Grace and Box by Kim Howard, Megan Lotter (Illus.)

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes they come in the mail! Grace and Box is the perfect read-aloud for every child who has enjoyed a long afternoon with a cardboard box, a pack of sharpies and some tape.

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, Megan Lotter (Illus.) (List Price: $18.99, Felwel & Friends, 9781250262943, 1/26/2021)

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

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Picnic In the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen

What a great away to start the new year! Take a dollop of Hiaasen, add some Hillerman, grind it all up with a Craig Child pestle (my favorite naturalist writer and historian), and you end up with a great metaphysical mishmash of cultures, places, of history and who does it belong too, all under the wide open Southwestern skies and the stoic remains of a people long since disappeared. I can’t wait to share this utterly entertaining novel with people!

Picnic In the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen (List Price: $16.95, Counterpoint, 9781640093225, 1/5/2021)

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

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The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

A Winter 2021 Read This Next Title!

I just finished The Fortunate Ones and am a little breathless with it. Part political intrigue, part A Separate Peace, the novel spans decades across elite boarding schools and the halls of Washington, but what captures the reader is Charlie, the narrator at the book’s heart. I fell in love with Charlie’s voice and story, and it’s him I kept turning the page for. I loved this book.

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington (List Price: $26.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616206802, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Annie Jones, The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia

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The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days in 1926, and this novel tells Christie’s story, building the events of her life and her disappearance to a crescendo right at the end of the book. This is an amazing story of one woman who subjugated herself to the benefit of her husband and the detriment of herself and her daughter, but eventually stood up for herself to the benefit of all who read her novels. I loved this book.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (List Price: $26.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781492682721, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Friendly Vegan Cookbook by Michelle Cehn & Toni Okamoto

The Friendly Vegan is far and away my favorite cookbook of 2020! The recipes combine easy-to-find ingredients with simple instructions for page after page of go-to recipes every vegan should have in their kitchen repertoire. I have been making tofu scramble for years, and this morning tried The Friendly Vegan recipe, and my husband immediately recognized the elevated flavor combinations. I can’t wait to cook my way through this cookbook!

The Friendly Vegan by Michelle Cehn & Toni Okamoto (List Price: $22.95, BenBella Books, 9781950665365, October, 2020)

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

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Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller

I’ll straight up say I’m not much of a thriller girl. I much prefer fantasy and magic over “the true monster is man”. But Don’t Tell a Soul is definitely an exception. It’s called a modern Rebecca, but I cannot attest to the veracity of that as it is one of the rare classics I didn’t read!

Bram is just trying to escape her own secrets when she stumbles into the deep ones of Louth. I personally adored every character in this tale, they’re all extremely well developed and I loved trying to hatch their secrets as I read. Nothing is as it seems, and the twists and turns will have the reader up at night. Highly recommend for any thriller/mystery lover, especially those who like a nice dose of smart and clever teenagers more mature beyond their years.

Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller (List Price: $17.99, Delacorte Press, 9780525581208, 1/26/2021)

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

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A Sled for Gabo by Emma Otheguy, Ana Ramírez González (illus.)

Gabo thinks he doesn’t have the right gear for a snowy day, but his family, neighbors, and new friends have enough creativity and radiant joy to keep him warm. This bright, sweet story sparkles with loving community (and fantastic illustrations). A new winter classic!

A Sled for Gabo by Emma Otheguy, Ana Ramírez González (illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534445345, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin is at her best in this historical fiction account of the terrifying blizzard of 1888. It seemingly came out of nowhere and caught the residents of the Midwest by surprise, especially the children and teachers who were preparing to go home for the day. Benjamin looks at the lives of two sisters–both teachers at different schools–and how their decisions that day meant life or death for their students. I spent several late nights on this one!

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin (List Price: $28, Delacorte Press, 9780399182280, 1/12/2021)

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

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Nick by Michael Farris Smith

Author Michael Farris Smith has pulled off a tremendous literary feat. His latest novel, Nick, can play two roles. The first, a magnificent stand alone novel for readers unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby. The second, Gatsby fans will have a deeply satisfying lens to observe the life of narrator, Nick Carraway, and the events that formed one of literature’s most beloved voices.

Nick by Michael Farris Smith (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316529761, 1/5/2021)

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

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Communication is a key ingredient to our daily life. Even choosing to avoid it says multiple somethings about us. Be the relationship cave painter and archaeologist or mother and son, down to the nanosecond most of us (speaker and auditor) repeatedly fudge it up. In that last sentence, for example, the subject choices and use of the word “fudge” paint both a true-ish and false-like picture of this reviewer. But this isn’t about me (or is it?). [Ahem] Through a panoply of pitch-perfect analogies, George Saunders puts the writer/reader at the reader/writer’s La-Z-Boy/typewriter. With hang-out-sesh tonality, he weighs the beauty in misunderstanding against how utterly frustrating it can be to simply get what you’re being told. Fans of Understanding Comics or How to Read Nancy might enjoy placing turn-of-the-century Russian masterpieces under the microscope. It’s been over a week since I finished A Swim… (“not about me,” eh, me?) and like a kid home from camp, not a day has gone by without a few thoughts of this deep moment or that fond element. All that’s missing from that analogy is me repeatedly checking the mailbox to see if George wrote me a postcard, but that would be a downer of an ending to this wonderful book’s review (not to be confused with a wonderful book review), so it’ll surely be edited out.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (List Price: $28, Random House, 9781984856029, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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You Have a Match by Emma Lord

What’s starts off as a light and cheery coming-of-age story, quickly turns as unexpected sisters and family drama are tossed in. Abby Day is a relatable teen struggling with boy problems and AP Lit, when she suddenly learns that she has a sister! As she and her influencer sister try to uncover the mystery of their separation, they learn to appreciate each other not just as friends, but as sisters. Emma Lord’s story is unique and modern, detailing the trials of family, making careers out of passions, and navigating friendships, making it all I could think about for the last few days. Though, all Abby’s family drama makes me grateful the worst thing my sister ever did was go see Harry Styles without me!

You Have a Match by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250237309, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Silky Hou, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe

Poor Avocado is thrown for a loop when he hears someone wonder if he is a fruit or a vegetable! Not only is this book ADORABLE, but it also teaches a great lesson about fitting in even if you’re a little bit different. Sometimes being different means standing out and being wonderful! The easy text and fun grocery store illustrations will be fun to revisit during story times.

Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe (List Price: $17.99, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 9780593177938, 1/26/2021)

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

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Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Many of our favorite historical fiction novels move us to tears, compel us to turn pages, and tie us in knots over the fate of characters. All of these emotions are in play as we read Yellow Wife, based on the notorious Richmond slave jail known as the Devil’s Half Acre and its cruel master. We follow Pheby’s life, from her earliest years as a plantation slave, her journey to the jail, and her years as mistress and slave to the master of the jail and mother to their children. We watch as her desperate choices and will to survive and protect those she loves draws her evermore into dangerous situations. Her dreams of freedom, passed down to her by her mother, drive her and at times sustain her while living in such close proximity to the jail where she was witness to the depths of human cruelty. A powerful story not soon forgotten.

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson (List Price: $26, Simon & Schuster, 9781982149109, 1/12/2021)

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

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The Beak Book by Robin Page

I love a book that takes an impossibly large topic (in this case: birds) and simplifies it in a way that allows a young reader to meet several different examples through one method of comparison (in this case: beaks). Each bird’s beak is introduced by explaining what the bird uses it for. It’s a great way to find out how birds are different from each other while still being super accessible. The illustrations are gorgeous and the two-page spread in the back that shows where each bird lives is a nice touch!

The Beak Book by Robin Page, Robin Page (Illus) (List Price: $17.99, Beach Lane Books, 9781534460416, January, 2021)

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

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Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson

First of all, the premise–Depression-era divorce ranches for wealthy women to wait out their divorces in Reno–is just wild. Second, Julia Claiborne Johnson’s voice is just so dang funny, and her characters are spot on. I love it!

Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson (List Price: $28.99, Custom House, 9780062916365, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Itinerant Literate, Itinerant Literate Books, LLC in North Charleston, South Carolina

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Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Henri relies on his charm in all aspects of his life, but that charm doesn’t extend to his classmate Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honorable dog-walking business, she blackmails him into extending some of that charm into helping her social life. Philippe has once again written a cast of characters that readers will love and puts them in realistic dilemmas that will make readers laugh and cringe in solidarity.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (List Price: $18.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062824141, 9/8/2020)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Fans of The Hating Game, rejoice! Thorne’s third novel lives up to the promise of her first with dizzying dialogue, undeniable chemistry, and some legitimate tear-jerking moments. Second First Impressions has characters you will love, from sheltered protagonist Ruthie to cackling biddies Renata and Aggie. Goofy hero Teddy is different from your average dreamboat, and his burgeoning relationship with Ruthie has all the bliss and heartache of true love. This is a cozy, cuddle-up-on-the-couch comfort read that’s sure to become as popular as its predecessors.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (List Price: $15.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062912855, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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The Bible With and Without Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine, Marc Zvi Brettler

Scholarly and insightful, these esteemed professors break down how Jews and Christians can look at the same texts and come to wildly different conclusions. It’s often a matter of linguistic translation, theological emphasis, traditional interpretation. By showing how “polemic can be turned to possibility,” they’ve penned a bold thesis for understanding and empathy between Jews and Christians, as well as those of any faith and culture.

The Bible With and Without Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine, Marc Zvi Brettler (List Price: $34.99, HarperOne, 9780062560155, 10/27/2020)

Reviewed by Ben Groner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman, Ariana Franklin

This series is one of my absolute favorites and I am so happy that Franklin’s daughter has written this final installment. As Adelia ages, her daughter Allie is beginning to come into her birthright and take over the healing and mystery solving that made her mother famous. In 1100s England, being a medical examiner is difficult enough without adding in the complication of being a woman. But when several young women go missing and turn up dead, Allie has no choice but to risk her own safety to solve the horrible crimes. I am sad that this story has to finally end, but am very happy with the way it is concluded.

Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman, Ariana Franklin (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062562388, 10/20/2020)

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

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Into the Real by Z Brewer

Into the Real deserves its own genre of gender queer science fiction. Main character Quinn’s life gets split into thirds after a run-in with the always present Coe in their post apocalyptic town. From leader of the resistance to a patient at a conversion therapy camp, Quinn finds themself in different situations but still with the same town, people, and questions. With each different life, they must decide what’s more important–living true to themself or blending in. With a revealing truth at the end, Quinn realizes what really happened to her hometown.

Into the Real by Z Brewer (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062691385, October, 2020)

Reviewed by Nannette Matthews, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert’s Brown sisters books just keep getting better and better! Although I related the most to Dani Brown, I think I loved Eve Brown the most, even though she literally hits someone with her car in the opening of this book. As far as meet-cutes go, it’s not the most opportune! The picturesque bed and breakfast in the Lake District was the perfect setting for this sweet romance.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (List Price: $15.99, Avon, 9780062941275, 3/9/2021)

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

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Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin

Rosie has an impressive job as a sous chef at a Michelin starred restaurant and a husband she loves. But it all comes crashing down when her husband dumps her for someone else…on her birthday, no less! Rosie looks at her life and realizes that her job doesn’t actually make her happy. So the morning after a bit too much to drink, Rosie wakes up to discover that she’s bought a travel camper. She then decides to give the nomad life a try as she travels around in her new, mobile tea shop.

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin (List Price: $16.99, HQ, 9780008414207, 2/16/2021)

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

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A Cat Story by Ursula Murray Husted

This graphic novel follows two strays as they journey to find a utopian garden for cats. A quiet garden where all cats are welcome, there’s enough food for all, and the humans are kind. I also want to find that garden, honestly. The moral of the middle grade is that home and happiness are wherever you make it. It’s both sweet and optimistic. Kids will love the devotion between the two “catagonists,” and I enjoyed the art.

A Cat Story by Ursula Murray Husted (List Price: $12.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062932044, 10/6/2020)

Reviewed by Jenny Luper, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Ash is a typical white All-American football-playing teen. Then he gets tackled into another dimension, and has to confront issues he’s never directly faced before. From homophobia to racism, sexism to privilege, Ash gets a crash course on every hard-hitting issue we face today. This is an important and timeless tale about perceiving a world beyond your own.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman (List Price: $17.95, Quill Tree Books, 9780061998676, 2/9/2021)

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

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Thesaurus Has a Secret by Anya Glazer, Anya Glazer (Illus.)

Young readers will savor, relish, treasure and adore this charming book about a dinosaur who, well, loves books. All Thesaurus needs to make him happy is a good book, a comfy spot and some peace and quiet. He makes books look so interesting, the other dinosaurs just might join him! This one’s sure to become a bedtime favorite.

Thesaurus Has a Secret by Anya Glazer, Anya Glazer (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062916051, 10/6/2020)

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

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Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (Illus.)

A fun, spooky gothic horror that spans years and so, so many lesbians. You’ll always flinch at yellow jackets after this read.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (Illus.) (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062942852, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Jenny Luper, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC

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We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

Wow. It is easy to understand how Becky Cooper became enthralled with Jane Britton’s story, as this book continues to linger in my mind long after I have finished it. If you are a student, a teacher, a staff member, a mentor, or a parent: this is an absolute must-read. Please read this book in honor of all of the aspiring young women you impact. In her immersive, personal investigation, Cooper gave a voice to the fears I experienced as an undergraduate student and continue to feel and see around me as I enter graduate school. The story of Jane and her murder is fascinating alone, but the ability to relate to Jane, Cooper, and every other woman affected by this story kept me reading late into the night. Women can no longer be silenced in academia when brilliant voices like Becky Cooper’s are rising from the ashes of their broken systems. This is beyond a great true crime. This is the perfect non-fiction book.

We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper (List Price: $29.00, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538746837, November, 2020)

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Consent by Annabel Lyon

In Vancouver, two women are innately connected by the sources of their grief. What at first begins as separate family tableaus–of Sara’s and Saskia’s parents and young adulthood and strife in defining themselves as individuals beside their siblings–slowly and masterfully braids into a mystery led by these two protagonists, haunted by the apparitions and very memories of those for whom they cared. Peppered with the lush descriptions of decadent textures, jewel-like alcohols and olfactory notes so accurate you can almost sense them, Consent is a sensual and sophisticated-yet-blunt story of grief and retribution that I couldn’t put down.

Consent by Annabel Lyon (List Price: $25.95, Knopf, 9780593318003, January, 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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Black, White, and The Grey by Mashama Bailey & John O. Morisano

Living in Savannah and being a huge fan of The Grey, I was really excited for this book. I’m so glad its presented with both Mashama and John O.’s perspectives. I found Mashama’s parts especially to be very reflective and an important contribution to the discussion of race in this country and, specifically, in the south. The recipes are an excellent addition.

Black, White and The Grey by Mashama Bailey & John O. Morisano (List Price: $28.00, Lorena Jones Books, 9781984856203, January, 2021)

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

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The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

It is 1909 in Spokane, WA, and orphaned brothers Gig and Rye Dolan are barely surviving day to day…taking odd jobs where they can find them and hopping trains to get from place to place. When older brother Gig gets involved in the IWW union and gets himself in trouble, 16-year-old Rye picks up where he left off and finds himself deeply entangled in the dirty business of brutal police, deal-making, and shady businessmen. You really do become invested in the characters as you’re drawn deeper into their stories of desperation, hard times, and brotherhood. If you liked Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach or Paulette Jiles’s News of the World, this book is for you!

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter (List Price: $28.99, Harper, 9780062868084, 10/27/2020)

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

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Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Nina, an Italian Jew, pretends to be the wife of an Italian Christian farmer to survive the war. Robson has written a believable story of some of the horrors of the Nazi regime and how they affected the lives of ordinary people.

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson (List Price: $17.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062674975, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

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Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

I have been waiting for this book since it was announced and I have to say–it is even better than I was hoping it would be. This follow up to The Hate U Give tells the story of Maverick Carter in his teenage years. Starting when he finds out he’s a father and going until just before Starr’s birth, Thomas takes us back to the Garden and once again shows us how to walk in someone else’s shoes. Mav is trying to be the best man and father he can be. He finds a “straight” job at a local store to get away from the world of drug sales and gangs but the money isn’t enough to support him and his growing family. Will he be able to get out from under the thumb of King, his friend turned leader of the King Lords and provide for his family? You won’t be able to put this down until you see how it ends and even then you will wish for more stories from this universe.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (List Price: $19.99, Balzer +Bray, 9780062846716, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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The Push by Ashley Audrain

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

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

The Push by Ashley Audrain (List Price: $26.oo, Pamela Dorman Books, 9781984881663, January 5, 2021)

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

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The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone

Amerigo is a child in southern Italy sent north with other children to escape the deprived conditions after WWII. Choosing to stay with his adoptive family he lives a good life. Going home fifty years later for his mother’s funeral causes him to rethink his life and what a family really means. A great book that will provoke good book club discussions.

The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone, Clarissa Botsford (Trans.) (List Price: $16.99, HarperVia, 9780062940513, January 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann

Cinders & Sparrows is so perfectly atmospheric and spooky! I loved rooting for Zita as she came into her powers and her self-confidence, all while unpuzzling the many mysteries of her new home.

Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann (List Price: $16.99, Greenwillow Books, 9780062289957, 10/13/2020)

Reviewed by Itinerant Literate, Itinerant Literate Books, LLC in North Charleston, South Carolina

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The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

Melody is in her junior year of high school and all her dreams have come true. She finally gets to be the stage manager of her high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. But the theatre is riddled with superstition. Every new play has a new superstition and a counter-curse for that superstition. So, when Melody’s love life causes problems with their current play the stage kids decide that when Melody is in love, that’s when things go wrong. The superstition for the spring musical is going to be that Melody doesn’t fall in love. Melody is on board with the plan. But that’s before their local celebrity, Odile Rose, comes back from filming a TV show and is cast in the musical. Everyone thought Odile was snobby and standoffish, but she’s not that way with Melody…

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780062409263, 12/1/2020)
Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave The World Behind is an interesting take on how people react in the case of an emergency surrounded by unknown causes. Amanda and Clay leave Manhattan with their children to escape to a secluded Airbnb on Long Island for vacation. Late in the evening of their first night, an elderly couple claiming to be the owners of the house knock on the door and ask to stay because of a blackout in the city. And more weird things continue to happen…thousands of deer trek pass the house… a sonic boom of sorts cracks all the windows…live flamingos start showing up in the backyard pool…and Amanda and Clay’s son becomes violently ill with no explanation. This book took me a while to get into because the first few chapters are incredibly dense with metaphors and adjectives. I’m glad I stuck with it though, because once you start getting the internal dialogue of the characters…tension and suspicion abound due to the differences of race/social class between the two families. And the scariest part of the novel isn’t necessarily all the natural phenomena, it’s the fear of not knowing why things happen as they do and what kind of darkness that ignorance might bring out of our human nature.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780062667632, 10/6/2020)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, TN.

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All About Us by Tom Ellen

Tom Ellen has written the perfect Christmas novel! All About Us is the cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and Love, Actually that we didn’t know we needed. Ben’s marriage is on rocky ground this holiday season. When his ex Alice reaches out, he can’t help but wonder if he chose the right girl that December years ago. But when a mysterious man sells him a watch with the hands frozen at one minute to midnight, he finds himself on the fateful day where he chose his current wife and left Alice. For many, this year’s holidays are filled with sadness or uncertainty. This novel captures those emotions and shows the hope that lies under the season. After the year we have had, this is a wonderful book to get into the Christmas spirit!

All About Us by Tom Ellen (List Price: $15.99, HQ, 9780008402679, 10/13/2020)

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Diamond Doris by Doris Payne

Doris was a badass and she knew it. You’re a fly on the wall as she cases and steals from the most luxurious jewelry retailers in the world using social cues and expectations to her advantage. Part Pam Grier, part 007, she led an unbelievably brazen life of crime and writes about it very well. A real page-turner. And a great audiobook as well!

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne (List Price: $16.99, Amistad, 9780062918000, 10/6/2020)

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

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Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic is an own-voices magical realism story about two Gullah Geechee twins, Jezebel and Jay, who start to learn rootwork from their uncle after their grandmother’s passing in 1963. A perfect blend of historical fiction, supernatural fantasy, and a classic story of family and friendship, ROOT MAGIC will capture readers, teleporting them to the mysterious marsh inhabited by supernatural beings. Scarier than hags, though, is a local white police officer who has taken to threatening the Turner family. Luckily, Jezebel’s growing affinity for rootwork may save the day. This magical book is sure to be one of my favorites for young readers!

Root Magic by Eden Royce (List Price: $16.99, Walden Pond Press, 9780062899576, 1/5/2021)

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

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No Surrender by Christopher Edmonds

Chris Edmonds tells the story of his father Roddie who served in WWII and spent time as a POW in Germany. Standing up to his German captors, Roddie saved the lives of 200 Jewish American POWs and almost 1,300 total American POWs. This is a powerful story of a man who chose to do the right thing and changed the lives of countless others.

No Surrender by Christopher Edmonds, Douglas Century (List Price: $17.99, HarperOne, 9780062905024, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

I absolutely adore this clever, cozy, flower-dotted novel that manages to be gentle and whimsical and yet serve up scenes of truly spine-tingling eldritch horror. Written in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones and featuring the absolute Very Best Fox of young adult literature, this is a story that spans the gap between middle grade and adult fantasy readers. I would recommend this to fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and An Enchantment of Ravens equally, and I cannot wait to read more Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

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

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This is the perfect book to curl up with a blanket and a warm drink! Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful story and setting is the epitome of cozy. Each character feels so real, with universal problems surrounding love, family, and growing older. The magic of time travel, and the magic of getting to say what they really feel, makes this a soul-satisfying story. The desire to make things right with our loved ones is a universal impulse. Everything about Before the Coffee Gets Cold is fun and true.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (List price: $19.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335430991, November 2020).

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

This is an impressive sophomore novella that breathes new life into campfire stories and oral history. In a mystical world of tiger shifters and deadly mammoths, one cleric must bargain for their life with a folk tale. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain is a story of cultural exchange and a question of who pens history. It’s powerful, compelling, and downright enchanting.

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (List price: $15.99, Tordotcom, 9781250786135, December 2020), recommended by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

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Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon

A brilliantly nerdy rom-com about being yourself with effervescent joy. David Yoon is the master of teen-talk and I loved these characters like I loved my friends in high school. Sunny Dae, fake rock star and geek extraordinaire, is the kind of teen male protagonist who reads realistically, through every ill-conceived plan and rock star salute. I love him and I love Super Fake Love Song.

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon (List price: $18.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers,9781984812230, November 2020), recommended by Sami Thomason-Fyke, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

It’s a new start for this family, after experiencing a near tragedy. They’ve now moved from London to Wales and have remodeled an old rectory, making it into a guesthouse. But the old rectory has secrets, and the village has secrets, and this little family has secrets. And where there are secrets, there are lies. And when a death occurs in the B&B, the police are not satisfied that it’s an accident. Too many suspects crowd this B&B and no one knows who to trust. A captivating, but complex plot, this thriller will grab you on the first page and keep you reading until its last, shocking page. It’s fast-paced, with lots of twists and turns, a bit dark at times, and full of suspense. And you’ll never expect this surprise ending!!

Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas (List price: $26.99, Harper, 9780063037410, November 2020), recommended by Nancy Humphreys, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

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Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

After a whirlwind–and somewhat embarrassing–first encounter, Birdie doesn’t expect to meet Daniel again. Then she shows up for her first night shift at a quirky hotel and realizes that she’s about to become his coworker. Set against the artsy, eclectic backdrop of Seattle, this sweet and sex-positive romance charmed me at every turn.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (List Price: $12.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534425156, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.

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How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

This engaging and poignant story is full of delicious romance and emotional growth, and I adored following Shanti and Sanyu as they learned how to love each other, and how to be the best leaders they could be for their kingdom. Cole does a fantastic job of centering mental health and open communication in this story in an approachable way, and I cannot wait to see what other stories she brings to life in this series!

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole (List Price: $7.99, Avon, 9780062933966 December, 2020).

Reviewed by Lucy Perkins-Wagel, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL.

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Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

A slice of life tale from Northern Ireland featuring a bold, unusual, but very relatable protagonist. Definitely good for a few laughs, but above all else, a very engaging novel that manages to transport the reader to another place (unless you happen to be from a border town called Aghybogey).

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (List Price: $16.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643750897 December 2020).

Reviewed by Billy McCormick, McIntyre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro, NC.

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The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

What a great story. This is one of those books that you can’t wait to get back to so you can figure out what is happening. The end will keep you guessing and make you wonder what happened in the end.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (List Price: $27.99, St. Martins Press, 9781250245496 January, 2021).

Reviewed by Amy McNabb, Reading Rock Books in Dickson, TN

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

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

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (List Price: $26.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142247, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL

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The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

This delightful book is the perfect antidote to what was a difficult year for so many–the perfect book to begin a new year with. Eve and Sally are both looking for an escape from their everyday life. They meet while rescuing a dog from a barge–who turns out not to need rescuing after all–and promptly meet the owner of the dog and the barge, who needs both somewhere to stay and someone to take care of her boat. So Eve and Sally set off down the canals in their borrowed boat, discovering new friends and learning new skills along the way. Their first time taking the boat through a tunnel is literally some of the most riveting writing I’ve read in ages. I loved this book and can’t wait to share it with readers looking for their own escape!

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250764614, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

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Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

This is the start of a brilliant new middle grade fantasy series. Move over, Harry Potter. It’s time for some #blackgirlmagic. This was a super fun read but also touches on racism and class issues with a deft hand. Can’t wait for the next one!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston (List Price: $1.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062975164, January, 2021).

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

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Walking with Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne

Walking With Ghosts is unlike any other memoir I’ve read. All of the typical biographical points are in there: place of birth, parental history, childhood experiences, and anything/everything you need to know about Gabriel Byrne’s origin. However, the exceptional writing style and the language he uses makes this book stand out from the standard celebrity tell-all. Byrne uses a stream of consciousness to connect his adult experiences to growing up in Ireland. And no one is left out: his first childhood crush, the town alcoholics, the prevalence of organized religion, and even the local artists/musicians who struggle with anxiety and depression (long before those things were discussed openly or understood on a social level).

He writes as if you’re with him experiencing everything in real-time. Extreme traumas are revealed, but he expresses sentimentality in several of his memories. Aside from his personal life, his career is a highway that starts with stage theatre and moves to working with the actors of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood before it arrives to the modern era of filmmaking. The mark of a good memoir is that it’s a great book even if you have no idea of the author’s work or fame. This is that book. I recommend this as an incredible piece of nonfiction… it’s not just another celebrity bio.

Walking with Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne (List Price: $26, Grove Press, 9780802157126, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, TN

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I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi

Oh my goodness, this is the sweetest thing I have read in quite a while. It just makes me want to gather my 3 year old to sit in my lap and read ” I will love you til the cows come home, from a trip to mars through skies unknown, in a rocket ship made of glass and stone… I will love you til the cows come home.

I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home Board Book by Kathryn Cristaldi
(List Price: $7.99, HarperFestival, 12/15/2020)

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

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A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers

I am obsessed with A Certain Hunger. This is one of those books where the story and characters are so deep and complex, but you cannot help but become engrossed in their messiness and forget to put the book down. Dorothy Daniels is a wild and witty character. While it is dark, Dorothy’s outlook on her life and actions produce laugh out loud moments in this highly original story. The philosophical insights into life, love, and lust are only more profound with Chelsea G. Summers’s lyrical writing. Readers will want to devour the writing as much as the duck confit! Her rage is refreshing and oh so satisfying.

A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (List Price: $26.00, The Unnamed Press, December, 2020).

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA

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The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Enormous in scope and theme, this book is a force. Weaving past and present into a lyrical world, Joukhadar uses a multi-generational cast to explore what it means to belong to a society, a community, and to oneself. It’s in this narrowing of belonging that the novel truly soars, literal ghosts and the ghosts of self-populating the story of a young trans boy as he sheds the confines of his traditional community-at-large and finds himself in the immigrant, working-class, LGBTQ, artists’ underground of NYC. The characters are imperfectly human. They experience everything from grief to joy, their lives full of loss and love, of heartbreak and the comfort of others, of seeing their world anew, and of being seen for who they are. This isn’t a novel about suffering; this is a novel about being in the world.

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
(List Price: $27, Atria Books, November, 2020)

Recommended by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books|Chocolate|Brews, Chapel Hill, NC

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Soulswift by Megan Bannen

This beautifully bittersweet stand alone asks “what would you do if your entire reason for being was built on lies? Your religion, your existence, all of it. Well. Most of it.” Our two main characters follow a terribly sad path where they find their own bits of hope, all leading to an, as I said, bittersweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building within this book, and would not be disappointed if Megan returned at any point later, following other characters.

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 11/17/2020)
Recommended by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Winter Is Here by Kevin Henkes, Laura Dronzek

When winter comes it comes soft like snowfall and hard like leaves frozen in ice. Winter comes white and gray and deep deep blue. From husband and wife team of Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek, Winter is Here is the companion to the lovely When Spring Comes and is the perfect introduction to the seasons for young readers.

Winter Is Here by Kevin Henkes, Laura Dronzek
(List Price: $8.99, Greenwillow Books, 11/3/2020)
Recommended by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Who killed Emma? The perfect, popular, and beautiful cheerleader? The suspects at her high school are like every other high school–except one of them is the killer. Page-turning and completely funny! Nothing is as it seems which keeps adding up to a book you will share with your nemeses and friends!

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 12/1/2020)
Recommended by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Another great mystery-within-a mystery from Horowitz! A real page turner, clever and entertaining with twists. The novel within the novel was a surprise, and made it even harder to try to guess “who done it.” A perfect distraction read, engrossing in all the best ways.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
(List Price: $28.99, Harper, 11/10/2020)
Recommended by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders

If you live near the Glistening Isles and/or Whisperwood then you know that just about any challenge you encounter might involve creatures whose names reflect their true dispositions, or at least what they let you see. This includes a Night Mare named Midnight and a Unicorn named Curious. You will also recognize that unicorns are becoming scarce, as they are hunted for the medicinal properties in their horns. The biggest threat to the unicorns, as well to other magical creatures and all living creatures, really, was that humans either no longer believed or just did not care. Eventually, something was bound to happen…

Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders (List Price $16.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford MS.

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Hill Women by Cassie Chambers

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

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers ($27.00, Ballantine Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

“You cannot treat women only for a disease of which men are the main carriers. Nor, I knew, could you punish every man who fell ill.” ~ Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Third Rainbow Girl is part true crime, part memoir, and fully compelling. On the frame of the unsolved Rainbow Murders, Eisenberg hangs a discussion of Appalachian life and the complicated history its people have with one another, their history, and the rest of the nation. Traditional true crime reads may find the structure off-putting at first, but the alternating of past and present day events give a richer picture of a community defined by the murder of outsiders. Content warning for discussions of violence, bigotry, alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault.

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
(List price: $27.00, Hachette Books)
Recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

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Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.

If you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

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Blue Skies by Anne Bustard

It’s 1949 in Gladiola, Texas. Everyone in town is excited about the Merci train full of gifts rolling through from France as a thank you for America’s help in WWII. Glory Bea is expecting a special gift to arrive on the train, her father. No one can stop her from believing in this miracle, not her mom’s new boyfriend or the grownups who thwart her railroad scouting mission. Blue Skies is perfect for fans of heartfelt middle grade with a twist of humor.

Blue Skies by Anne Bustard (List price: $17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

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The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith

 

Four stories wheelbarrowed down a potholed pathway of flawed love ’round the fecund pond in history’s horribly funded public park. The cartoon-strength attitudes of the four (or five) wonderfully constructed main characters gave me the strength to accept each of their fates with que sera and a sigh.

The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (List price: $28.99, Harper), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

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The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

Night Vale fans rejoice! Here is the latest offering from the talented offbeat minds of Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink – creators of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I don’t want to give anything away because that would spoil your enjoyment of this book. However, I will say this much: If you are already listening to Welcome to Night Vale, get this book. If you aren’t already listening, you need to start listening!! While being a fan definitely helps, it is not ultimately a bar to reading and enjoying this book. It might even get you to start listening!

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor (List price: $21.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

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Wine Girl by Victoria James

This is an intriguing and touching memoir of James’s struggles early in life and how she rose to career highs with hard work and motivation. She suffered abuse as a young woman and throughout her work life simply because she was a female and the way she shook it all off is inspiring. This book really shows the rewards of dedication to one’s craft and that you don’t need formal schooling to make something of yourself. I am so impressed at her strength and intellect and would love to hear more of her story.

Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James (List price: $26.99, Ecco), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

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Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk made a searing impression on me, so I leapt at the chance to read Vesper Flights. It’s a collection of Macdonald’s  essays and musings about human interrelationship with the non-human natural world. From childhood, she loved all wildlife, particularly birds. This woman has trudged through muck and mire, briars and brambles, in every possible weather condition – all for the chance to observe and learn and marvel. Each essay reveals some remarkable experience, but underlying all of them  is a persistent fear for the survival of our planet as the ecosystem she cherishes. Macdonald is a scientist who is willing to expose her emotions and vulnerability: her humanity. Every essay is a breathtaking illumination of life.

Recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

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Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

A good looking couple from New York City move upstate for a slower lifestyle but things quickly takes a turn when the husband goes missing. Sam Statler is a therapist with a range of diverse clients and when he doesn’t come home, his wife Annie is desperate to find him and suspects one of his clients. As secrets and twists unravel, Molloy keeps the reader excited and engaged in this intriguing thriller.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy (List Price: $27.99, Harper, 9780062881922, 10/13/2020)

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

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Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

A beautifully dark and lush novella about family and the secrets we keep. Set in rural (and slightly fantastical) Queensland, Flyaway is evocatively written, full of razor sharp edges and lonely, dusty roads. Jenning’s writing has a unique lyrical rhythm to it that immediately grabbed me and her gorgeous hand-cut illustrations that accompany every chapter sealed the deal. An entrancing and unforgettable debut.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (List price: $19.99, TOR), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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The City We Became by N. K. Jemison

The newest from three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin is an epic tribute to New York City that runs on pure adrenaline with a Lovecraftian back story and a hip hop backbeat. Five New Yorkers, some born to the city and others only recently arrived, find themselves the sudden manifestations of the soul of the Big Apple and the only ones standing between the city and its total destruction at the tendrils and tentacles of an eldritch city-eating horror. A big departure from The Broken Earth trilogy, but with its powerful political commentary, The City We Became is sure to please Jemisin fans, all while embracing superhero and horror fans.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemison (List price: $28.00, Orbit), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Our differences should never be hidden as a means of conformity, but fully embraced for their powerful ability to make us unique individuals. It’s a simple sentiment, if not a tired one, but TJ Klune has a magical power that allows him to breathe new, exhilarating life into that simplicity. With The House in the Cerulean Sea, he has skillfully crafted a contemporary fable filled with humor, wit, overwhelming delight, and some of the most colorfully drawn characters I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting in a book. Positively queer and heartfelt, you’ll find that TJ Klune is a brilliant writer and a masterful storyteller.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (List price: $18.99, Tor Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

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After Squidnight by Jonathan E. Fenske

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title

I can’t get over this weird and wonderful rhyming squid story. I love it for its nod to 1950s sci-fi creatures and its multi-seasonal appeal to booksellers. Summer? It’s got a beach! Halloween? Definitely! But it also works year-round. It’s a little creepy but not scary and LOL funny, but also full of heart. Jonathan Fenske’s rhythmic text will be a crowd-pleasing read-aloud, while his pared down palette sets the stage for seaside hijinks. The message to young creators is that art cannot be suppressed. It’s sneaky and subversive! Inky and inevitable! Artists, like these surreptitious squid, make their mark on the world long after they have slipped quietly into the deep, leaving the observer to wonder what happened–and when, if they’re lucky–it might happen again…

After Squidnight by Jonathan E. Fenske (List price: $12.99, Penguin Workshop), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

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If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Laurie has been with her partner for 18 years. He’s been her first and only and she’s still just as much in love with him now. So she’s shocked one evening when he gets home and he tells her that he doesn’t want to have kids and he feels trapped. He wants to break up. Laurie is heartbroken and since they work together, she has to see him all the time. It gets worse when he immediately starts dating someone else. And then his new girlfriend is pregnant. Laurie is destroyed, but when she gets trapped in an elevator with Jaime, the office Lothario. They soon concoct a fake romance. She makes her ex jealous and he shows he’s more serious to his bosses so he can hopefully snag a promotion. This is a fun romance. Laurie and Jaime are hilarious and fun together. This my first read from this author, but I hope to read many more now!

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (List price: $15.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.

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The Keeper by Jessica Moor

Katie Straw worked at a women’s shelter. She was really good at her job because seemed to understand how the residents were feeling as they hide out from, and attempted to recover from their abusive situations. Then Katie is found dead, an apparent suicide, or so the police believe, until they discover that she was NOT who she claimed to be. Told in the voice of “then” and “now” Katie tells her story leading up to her death, and the lead police detective tells his as the investigation continues. This debut novel by Jessica Moor is a challenging read at times as the varying themes of abuse are brought to light and you come to fear that Katie’s killer may just get away with murder!

The Keeper by Jessica Moor (List price: $16.00, Penguin Books), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.

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Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters, Ellie Snowdon (Illustrator)

This fun new series will get early readers a chance to love reading. Fun and beautiful while pulling at the strings of your heart for the love of animals. Delightful.

Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters, Ellie Snowdon (Illustrator) (List price: $14.99, Walker Books US), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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The Orphan Collector: A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Wiseman takes the sad story of the 1918 flu epidemic in Philadelphia and gives it a face with the tale of Pia Lange, a young daughter of German immigrants who goes out to search for food after her mother dies from the flu and comes back to find her twin infant brothers gone. This is a great story that reveals both the best and the worst in people.

The Orphan Collector: A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Ellen Marie Wiseman (List price: $16.99, Kensington), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

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Luster by Raven Leilani

Painter Edie–black, twenty-something, and precariously employed as an editorial coordinator for a children’s imprint–is in a new relationship with Eric, an archivist whose wife has recently issued guidelines for how to appropriately open their marriage. Emotionally enfeebled by a toxic and lonely childhood and anchored only by her art, Edie veers frequently between genius levels of self-awareness and a stubborn tendency to make the optimally self-destructive choice in spite of that. Luster is sad, sexy, and hypnotically paced, better binged than nibbled. There’s a stream-of-consciousness quality to Edie’s narration that made me linger too long in a no-longer-warm bath, turning page after page, not to outpace cliffhanging chapters, but to absorb her complete thoughts, scrape up every last bit of observational savvy, to go back and check one more time to be sure I didn’t overlook any emotional clues in Edie’s self-portrait. Luster is a best-of-show caliber debut.

Luster by Raven Leilani (List price: $26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by novel., Memphis, TN.

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