Underground Books

The Islands by Dionne Irving

This powerhouse collection of stories brings to vivid life the experiences of a diverse cast of (mostly) women of (mostly) Jamaican descent around the world, from Florida to France to 1950s London to 1960s Panama and beyond. The very first story, “Florida Lives,” about a Black couple who move from San Francisco to Florida only to suffer from the heat, some bats, and their tacky neighbors, is blazoned on my mind and I don’t think I’m ever going to stop thinking about it (or look at tacky neighbors the same way ever again). These stories movingly explore identity, belonging, and home all through the complexities of the Jamaican diaspora, immigration, assimilation, colonialism, racism, sexism, and class—all through a vivid cast of characters who will remain on your mind long after each story ends. I’m not a big short story reader, but this is truly a must-read collection and highly recommended for fans of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies!

The Islands by Dionne Irving, (List Price: $16.95, Catapult, 9781646220663, November 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Leech by Hiron Ennes

The narrator of this scalpel-sharp and intoxicatingly gross debut is a parasite who is about to meet its match in the battle for control over the human heart, mind, and body. Fans of gothic lit, haunted mansions in ill repair, and biological or medical horror, eat your optic nerve—I mean, your heart—out! I generally don’t consider myself a fan of the above actually, but the incredibly unique narrator, the excellent and atmospheric world-building, and the both chillingly creepy and chillingly cold setting really hooked me. Highly recommended for fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead!

Leech by Hiron Ennes, (List Price: $27.99, Tordotcom, 9781250811189, September 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth

Someone once told me that laughter is the human response to what makes them uncomfortable. This story is like Shirley Jackson and Christopher Moore had a book baby and Motherthing was the result. Ralph and Abby Lamb move in with his mentally ill mother as caretakers. Abby thinks this is her chance to win over her mother in law. She’s wrong. Dead wrong. The story telling in this book is brilliantly funny at times and deeply disturbing at others. Mark Abrams cover art drew me in but Ainslie Hogarth’s ability to make me cringe and laugh at the same time kept me reading.

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth, (List Price: $17, Vintage, 9780593467022, September 2022)

Reviewed by Suzanne Carnes, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

An August 2022 Read This Next! Title

Badass woman in science, CHECK. STEM setting with real life issues, CHECK. Huge, hot, *secretly pining* fellow scientist with off-the-charts chemistry with said badass woman in science, CHECK. We have all the components of another supremely satisfying steamy STEM romance by Ali Hazelwood. I loved Love on the Brain!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593336847, August 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power

In this Greek-inspired fantasy, the adult debut of Wilder Girls author Rory Power, families rule with the power of saints or gods, and siblings find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing war. The world building was very unique and interesting to me, and I would recommend for fans of court politics in their fantasy.

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power, (List Price: $27, Del Rey, 9780593354971, May 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

The destinies of a Rastafarian man prohibited from interacting with the dead and a woman destined to care for their spirits collide in a cemetery full of secrets in this magical realist novel set in a Trinidad “with the volume turned all the way up.” I enjoyed the settings and magical realism throughout the novel. I’d especially recommend for fans of Practical Magic.

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo (List Price: $27, Doubleday, 9780385547260,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

This book had me in its CLUTCHES. I read the last half at break neck speed, bewitched. This deliciously creepy and darkly magical story follows a daughter (now, in the suburbs) and her mother around the same age (the 1990s, in the city) as each encounters an ability that may prove as sinister as it is supernatural. Powerful witchcraft, a (literally) haunting past, and wicked twists will keep your own crooked heart beating as fast as you can flip the final pages.

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert, (List Price: $18.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250826367, June 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Groundskeeping by Lee Cole

Every character in this book felt so much like someone I’ve known. I have lived most of my life in southern college towns, where professors and liberal arts types live in tense bubbles amidst a sea of religious conservatism and working class anti-intellectualism. This familiar setting forms the backdrop of Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping, which is at its heart a love story between Owen and Alma, from two very different backgrounds. But more than a simple love story it is also a pitch perfect exploration of the nuanced ways race and class form the boundaries of relationships in these communities. I laughed, I cheered, I cringed with recognition, I shared the characters’ pains and sorrows, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Groundskeeping by Lee Cole, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593320501,  March 2022)

Reviewed by  Josh Niesse from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

In this seventh volume in the Wayward Children series, Cora, the resident mermaid of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, flees the reach of the Drowned Gods of the Moors by transferring to the anti-magical Whitethorn Institute. Seanan McGuire and her Wayward Children can literally take me anywhere; I will gladly open the door and step through every time! I loved learning more about Cora, was as intrigued as always with the new characters introduced and their doors, and I literally gasped at the return of a character. What more can you ask for?

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire, (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213624, January 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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

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

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Made in China by Anna Qu

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

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

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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, 2021-07-20)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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

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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