The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A haunted manor, star crossed lovers, a good guy to save the day – what more could you ask for in a wonderfully creepy gothic thriller set in the 1940s and in modern day? How about a really great surprise ending?
The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James (List price: $26.99, Minotaur Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.