The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

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

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

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

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Lean Fall Stand by Jon Mcgregor

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

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

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

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Dare to Know by James Kennedy

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

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

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

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Awake by Harald Voetmann

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

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

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Assembly by Natasha Brown

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

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

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

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The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish

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

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

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

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

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

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

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Hao by Ye Chun

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

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

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

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

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

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

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Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

Trying to emerge from Mrs. March’s head was like clawing my way out of a dark, tangled forest of screaming trees… and I loved every second of it. Plus, those mint green kidskin gloves sound f*cking fabulous.

Mrs. March by Virginia Feito, (List Price: 26, Liveright, 9781631498619, August 2021)

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

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The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

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

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

Reviewed by Olivia Gacka, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

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

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

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

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Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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

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

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

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

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

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

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The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal

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

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

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

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Edge Case by YZ Chin

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

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

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson

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

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

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

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Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

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

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

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

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Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

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

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

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

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All’s Well by Mona Awad

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

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

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

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Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

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

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

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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False Witness by Karin Slaughter

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

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

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

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

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

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

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The Therapist by B. A. Paris

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

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

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

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The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

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

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

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

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A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

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

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

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

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City Problems by Steve Goble

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

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

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

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Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

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

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

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

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The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler

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

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

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

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Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

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

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

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

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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

“Barely visible, Riley knelt up in his seat to drape his arms around it, flashing white teeth at Andrew. He made for an iconic, hungry gleam in the settling dark beneath tree shadows and open sky, more animal than boy. It was dumb, deliciously reckless, and that compelling energy struck Andrew with the force of a punch.” Imagine FAST AND FURIOUS as a book, but make it a Southern Gothic, give it a hefty dose of dark academia, and make every character queer. Oh, and also have them haunted by ghosts who may be trying to kill them. That is Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons, a queer horror that sneaks up on you and then tries to possess your body, forcing you to see truths you’d rather ignore. My only complaint is this group would never let me join their pack. Content warnings for general horror, possession, death, drug and alcohol abuse, racism, discussions of past mistreatment of enslaved persons, death of a loved one

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo, (List Price: 26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250790286, September 2021)

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

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Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

While the ghosts of genocide lurk in the heart of many of the characters in Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties, what comes through in this beautiful collection is the liveliness, humor, love, and tenderness in every character navigating growing up, sex, loss, and family. A wonderful portrait of being a queer child of immigrants, bearing the weight of history, while trying to carve out a new way of life. Each and every story is a joy to read.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, (List Price: 27.99, Ecco, 9780063049901, August 2021)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts

Creating a “page-turner” has always seemed to me to require something beyond writing. An author may be an excellent wordsmith, have brilliant ideas, and yet never achieve the deep understanding of human psychology or the precise timing and rhythm that is needed to hook a reader. My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black is a true page-turner. It took me only two sittings to course through its pages.

Author Terry Roberts sets his propulsive historical murder mystery on Ellis Island in 1920, amid American nativism and White Christian supremacy culture. On the surface is the disappearance of a young white Irish woman with connections in high places, connections who want her found. Stephen Robbins, from Hot Springs, NC, is contracted by a nameless man to solve the woman’s disappearance. It seems that she is not the only person to have gone missing from Island 3, the location of the isolation hospital for immigrants who arrive sick or pregnant at Ellis Island, presenting a potentially contagious situation. At the hospital, Robbins meets Lucy Paul, an undercover nurse who is investigating the high rates of patient death and disappearance. Roberts creates a spookily atmospheric setting in the creepy and mysterious hospital, and Robbins and Paul make a gutsy detective duo. But Roberts offers more than a compelling atmosphere.

My Mistress’ Eyes explores what brings humans to predicate superiority based on genetic expression. What is behind the belief that this assumed superiority excuses the right to commit violence? Roberts intersperses original texts from “scholars” of the time who espoused the superiority of White Christian Americans and proclaimed the dangers of letting immigrants into the United States. These lend credibility to the story, yet never detract from Roberts’ gift for spinning a wonderful yarn-filled humor, romance, intrigue, passion–and murder.

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts, (List Price: 31.99, Turner, 9781684426959, July 2021)

Reviewed by Erin Fowler, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

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

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 2021-07-20)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

You can’t always believe what you see. Megan Miranda brings the reader to an idyllic neighborhood, but it’s what all the porch cameras don’t show that makes this story the heart pounding thriller it is. Ruby returns to the neighborhood that helped convict her of the murder of a neighborhood couple, and she’s there to expose Hollow’s Edge darkest secrets. When another murder occurs, it seems no one is safe.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda, (List Price: 26.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982147280, July 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars is about a young girl kidnapped from her wealthy German parents and raised in the forests of Eastern Europe. From her earliest years, she is taught to survive in the woods. When her captor dies, she is alone until she comes upon a group of Jewish people fleeing from the Nazis. She decides to do whatever she can to protect them until a family secret threatens everything. Atmospheric with hints of fairy tale, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a stand out in WWII Historical Fiction 

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel, (List Price: 28, Gallery Books, 9781982158934, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

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Hell of a Book by Jason Mott

Mott’s latest is no joke. Charlie Kauffman-esque in its surrealism that devolves into almost fever dream with the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever read. Fantastic writing, and meaning, and it should be read by the masses. ‘Memory and death are countries that know no geography.’

Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, (List Price: 27, Dutton, 9780593330968, July 2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC

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The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

A Summer Read This Next! Selection!

If, like me, your catnip is the taciturn, brainy, hot hero who is secretly a big squishy marshmallow at heart, you can look nor further than this awesome debut! It’s also sexy, witty, and features a well-rounded cast of characters in a STEM environment.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: 16, Berkley, 9780593336823, September 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Trigg, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.

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

Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

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

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

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

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The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

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

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

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

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

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

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

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

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The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

It turns out all those hours I spent watching 1980s (and beyond) horror films weren’t wasted. From the detritus of popular culture and our own obsession with nostalgia comes up a blistering horror novel that savages society with the same precision and bloodletting as the killers savage their victims. Hendrix’s fans will be ecstatic, and we all will enjoy puzzling out who these final girls are! (Julia and Dani were the easiest, and I’m still puzzling out some references)

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, (List Price: 26, Berkley, 9780593201237, July 2021)

Reviewed by Tracie Harris, The Book House in Mableton, Georgia

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Give My Love to the Savages by Chris Stuck

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

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

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

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

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

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

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The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu

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

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

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

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Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng

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

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

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With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Sometimes it’s the mundane that’s the most fascinating. Kristen Arnett’s novel With Teeth takes the everyday marriage challenges of staying in love, being faithful, having patience with an unknowable child, and figuring out what to make for supper, tosses that with a dose of bizarre behavior which gives us what becomes to one queer family’s happily ever after. Arnett’s characters are infuriating and I think you’ll puzzle over Sammie, Monika, and Samson well after you finish the last page.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780593191507, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

This collection is sharp, strong, and emotional. I found myself incredibly moved by these stories about Black women who refuse to settle for lives dictated by insecurity, family tradition, or religious dogma. And despite being a white woman who will never truly understand the depicted experiences, I saw pieces of my own story reflected in the characters’ struggles to make their own space within and outside of an overbearing religious community, in the yearning for a love that defied familial expectations, and in teenage heartbreak. I saw glimpses of people I’ve known. That personal connection took this book from good to great for me – it got me totally invested. The women in these pages are vibrant and magnetic – they immerse us in their stories and make us feel the pulse of their lives. They also remind us that we have to truly see each other – that making the effort to connect and understand each other is vital to changing the national and global narrative of “everyone for themselves.”

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

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

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There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

A young woman who has burned out after 14 years in her chosen career takes on a series of short contract jobs through an employment agency. The jobs are somewhat unusual, but plausible… But as each contract goes on and she becomes more invested in her ‘easy’ job, the stranger each job becomes. Light surreal/confabulist touches plus the occasional meditation on work and meaning tie her various job adventures into an enjoyable read.

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (List Price: $18, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635576917, 3/23/2021)

Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

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The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

The Road Trip vividly tells the story of Addie and Dylan; they fell hard for each other and their relationship ended in horrible terms. Now somehow after not speaking to each other for awhile, they are stuck in a car together for a long trip to a mutual friend’s wedding. Told from both of their perspectives and present and past tense, Beth O’Leary can somehow take a simple idea and make it deep, funny, endearing and entertaining.

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593335024, 6/1/2021)

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

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Thank you for your patience. We are all in this together.” Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a delightful ending to her Wayfarer’s series. In it five characters find themselves stuck together at the Five-Hop-One-Stop (a cross between a truck stop and a Bed and Breakfast) when the planet’s satellite system comes crashing down. As they get to know one another the characters must contend with issues of identity, the legacy of colonialism, sexuality, and family, with a few deadly crises along the way. After a year in various levels of lockdown, this book at times felt far too familiar, but with the lightness and comfort only a Becky Chambers novel can bring. I’m sad to see this series end, but it’s nice to be reminded that bureaucracy will lean on unwanted camaraderie no matter where one finds oneself.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (List Price: $16.99, Harper Voyager, 9780062936042, 4/20/2021)

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

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The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

“When people say ‘terminal’, I think of the airport. . . . They’ve started to say ‘life-limiting instead now”. Thus, Marianne Cronin initiates her heart-wrenching, wise-cracking, delightful debut novel in which terminally ill, 17-year-old Lenni forges an unbreakable bond with 83-year-old, avant-garde rebel Margot. Even though each is quite ill, both display a joie de vivre, living life to its fullest, acting mischievously, searching for life’s meaning in the May Ward at Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. With the help of several caring nurses and the hospital chaplain, the protagonists decide to paint their way through their combined ages: 100 years. This legacy will also include Margot’s most life-defining stories, beginning with WWII, written by Lenni who writes more deftly than she paints. Cronin’s book inspires the reader through Lenni’s and Margot’s courageous life-affirming behaviors and escapades. Yes, Lenni’s diagnosis is sad, but she propels the reader into a realistic world of joy and sorrow, constantly questioning everyone to discover as much as she can about life. Margot’s tales delineate her many difficulties but also her accomplishments throughout her lengthy existence and her myriad loves, particularly her love for her son and for her friend and lover Meena. The history of the decades proves fascinating as do the Scottish cultural and social mores of the period. This beautifully written novel is an excellent antidote for present-day travails. Lenni and Margot prevail amidst dire medical circumstances and radiate a beacon of light and hope for all readers. This unusual friendship demonstrates the power of healing across age, nationality, socioeconomics, and health. A rich, inspiring piece of writing!

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin (List Price: $17, Harper Perennial, 9780063017504, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Beth O’Brochta, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

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Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Tucker spins a beautiful tale of addiction, love, friendship, and survival in this stunning debut set in rural North Carolina. Irene spends her days slinging drinks at the local watering hole. There, she befriends magnetic Luce and the two start down a dark path of drugs and crime, all the while wishing for escape. Things change when Luce meets a young soldier who wants to help her get clean. Irene is torn between the need to keep her friend close and the desire for Luce to have the best life possible. it’s a story of doing what you think is best and living with the consequences. This book broke my heart in the most beautiful way.

Bewilderness by Karen Tucker (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220243, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Spin by Peter Zheutlin

Spin is a thrilling story that will keep the reader breathless until the end. This mostly true story begins with a bored housewife and mother in the 1890’s who takes a wager to circle the world on a bicycle. The reader gets to ride along with Annie as she meets the most famous people of the day and finds love and adventure in every long mile. This tale will stay with you long after Annie’s last ride.

Spin by Peter Zheutlin (List Price: $25.95, Pegasus Books, 9781643137520, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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Love in Color by Bolu Babalola

Bolu Babalola’s prose had me enraptured from the very first page! The artful way that she rewove and spun myths from around the world was absolutely masterful, and I enjoyed reading fresh takes on stories that I knew, while also having the opportunity to encounter stories that I wasn’t familiar with at all. LOVE IN COLOR is for anyone who is constantly in awe of the power of love, and also for anyone who may need to be reminded of it.

Love in Color by Bolu Babalola (List Price: $25.99, William Morrow, 9780063078499, 4/13/2021)

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

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The Lost Village by Camilla Sten, Alexandra Fleming (Trans)

The Lost Village is a mystery, a survival story, and a dark homage to haunting – not just the haunting of abandoned mining village Silvertjärn, nestled deep in the forest of Sweden, but also how we find ourselves haunted by the past, our ancestors, and our own minds.

Alice, a filmmaker whose single goal is to solve the mystery of Silvertjärn, brings a documentary crew to the village to try and discover why all the residents disappeared in 1959. They quickly realize they aren’t alone and end up fighting for their lives against evil forces that still lie in wait.

The haunted house/haunted town idea isn’t new, but Camilla Sten makes it feel fresh. Strong characters with complex inner lives drive the story – the weight and context of their individual histories creates wonderfully compelling tension between them. As we learn why each crew member came to Silvertjärn, we also see the mystery unfold piece by piece as the story alternates between past and present until both converge in a horrifying face-off. I actually yelled out loud at the big reveal, which is all I want from a good horror story.

In fact, the buildup of tension was one of the best parts of the whole experience. Slowly but surely you’re pulled into the village, pulled into the mystery, pulled into the characters’ secrets and fears and nightmares until suddenly your heart races as you run with them from danger, run to escape the village, and instead find yourself face to face with the horror of Silvertjärn. I couldn’t put it down! It made me feel things. It creeped me out. I yelled in public (the highest praise I can give). Grab a copy and see if you can survive The Lost Village!

The Lost Village Camilla Sten, Alexandra Fleming (Trans.) (List Price: $26.99, Minotaur Books, 978125024925, 3/23/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

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The Dark Half by Stephen King

Thad Beaumont is an author whose most popular work was written by someone else. Or was it? Nightmares of his life destroyed, mysterious headaches, a horrifying revelation from his childhood, and the appearance of someone who knows Thad better than he knows himself all lead to a choice between saving his family and the life Thad has built for himself, or giving in to his darkest impulses. An electrifying exploration of the love of (and sometimes obsession with) writing, The Dark Half held me captive. I ached and feared and rejoiced with Thad as he faced his worst fears supernaturally made manifest. I read nonstop, unwilling to break the story’s rising tension. This book absolutely wrung me out in the best way. At one point, I sat through three pages of Thad trying to accomplish a task in the midst of sheer panic and it felt so real I found myself shaking. That’s how immersive the story is, “[d]own here in Endsville, where all rail service terminates.”

The Dark Half by Stephen King (List Price: $18.00, Gallery Books, 9781501144196, 2/2016)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

This collection is sharp, strong, and emotional. I found myself incredibly moved by these stories about Black women who refuse to settle for lives dictated by insecurity, family tradition, or religious dogma. And despite being a white woman who will never truly understand the depicted experiences, I saw pieces of my own story reflected in the characters’ struggles to make their own space within and outside of an overbearing religious community, in the yearning for a love that defied familial expectations, and in teenage heartbreak. I saw glimpses of people I’ve known. That personal connection took this book from good to great for me – it got me totally invested. The women in these pages are vibrant and magnetic – they immerse us in their stories and make us feel the pulse of their lives. They also remind us that we have to truly see each other – that making the effort to connect and understand each other is vital to changing the national and global narrative of “everyone for themselves.”

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

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

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Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins

This was a beautiful book of magic, secrets, betrayal and race in America. I can’t put into words what I just read (in a good way) because the characters are so intertwined with one another and they don’t even know it, which was riveting to read. Sometimes I read so many books that I forget characters names and little innate details, but this is a gripping story that I will never forget. I was so happy about the climax and ending, this is going to be a lot of readers Best Reads of 2021!

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (List Price: $27.99, Harper, 9780062873088, 4/6/2021)

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

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Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler

I’ve never finished a book and immediately started rereading it, but this is how I read Edie Richter is Not Alone. I’m dazzled by the way Rebecca Handler channels so much noticing and emotion into her carefully curated (sometimes sparse) prose. Handler has written Edie’s interior monologue so that seeing a spider in a church, hearing possums on a roof, or regarding a cockroach in the grass makes you inhabit Edie’s brain. This is a book about the loss of a parent to Alzheimer’s disease that is funny and sad and extremely entertaining.

Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler (List Price: $23, The Unnamed Press, 9781951213176, 3/9/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Spotlight on Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

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Mieko Kawakami

Last year, the English translation of Mieko Kawakami’s novel Breasts and Eggs received so much indie bookseller excitement and praise that the “buzz” was more like a swarm. But her work has been highly acclaimed in Japan for decades. Haruki Murakami has called her his favorite young novelist — and it was Kawakami who did a series of interviews with him over two years where she pointedly grilled him on on the misogyny in his novels.

The receiption for Heaven, Kawakami’s latest novel to be translated into English, has been just as enthusiastic. Heaven explores the meaning and experience of violence and the consolations of friendship. Bullied because of his lazy eye, Kawakami’s protagonist suffers in silence. His only respite comes thanks to his friendship with a girl who is also the victim of relentless teasing. But what is the nature of a friendship if your shared bond is terror?

“I try to write from the child’s perspective—how they see the world.” says the author, “Coming to the realization you’re alive is such a shock. One day, we’re thrown into life without warning.”

Heaven

What booksellers are saying about Heaven

  • From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs comes this new novel that is once again storytelling at its best. Real, raw and revelatory, Heaven shares the story of two young people who are joined at a broken place and investigates the power of human kindness and friendship to help them move forward. — Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
    Buy from The Country Bookshop
  • If you thought Breasts and Eggs was good (and I did), Heaven will be a fierce competitor. It’s a fascinating mental examination into how one is to survive under terrible circumstances and how far one would go to break free from it. — Easty Lambert-Brown, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, Tuscaloosa, AL
    Buy from Ernest & Hadley Books.
  • What I appreciate so much about Kawakami is the strength of her voice, and her ability to convey the most basic aspects of human nature in a complex and thoughtful way. Pick up this book and then share it with everyone! -Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, FL
    Buy from Tombolo Books
  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami offers a blend of devastation and hope, exploring both the desolation of lonely adolescence and the beauty of friendship. — Alex Brown, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
    Buy from Quail Ridge Books

About Mieko Kawakami

Mieko Kawakami is the author of the internationally best-selling novel, Breasts and Eggs, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and one of TIME’s Best 10 Books of 2020. Born in Osaka, Kawakami made her literary debut as a poet in 2006, and published her first novella, My Ego, My Teeth, and the World, in 2007. Her writing is known for its poetic qualities and its insights into the female body, ethical questions, and the dilemmas of modern society. She has received numerous prestigious literary awards in Japan, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, and the Murasaki Shikibu Prize. Kawakami lives in Tokyo, Japan.

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Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans.)

We are undoubtedly experiencing a golden age of surreal fiction, much of it translated, and the best of it written by women. For short story junkies like myself it is a particularly good time to be stuck at home avoiding other humans. Each story in this amazing collection connects with me viscerally, yet each one connects differently, like a smell, a taste, or a texture. Some are mysterious and subtle while others are brazen and bold, grotesque even. Each one is exquisitely crafted and exhilarating to read!

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans (List Price: $19.95, Two Lines Press, 9781949641097, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Tony Peltier, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

If you’re wondering which Great Gatsby adaptation to read this summer, look no further. I read it in one day because leaving it unfinished for even one night felt like a crime; it surpasses “unputdownable.” This is the Great Gatsby we need, narrated by a queer, Viet Jordan Baker who is both outside of society yet more connected in society than everyone else around her. The slightest touches of magic bring The Chosen and the Beautiful to life, displaying a world where not all that glitters is gold, yet firm anchors to the original make every line sing true. I truly love this book.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250784780, 6/1/2021)

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

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Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann

Stacey Swann spawns a unique cast of characters that erupts on the opening page: the prodigal son returns to town after a cooling-off period, but two years has not cooled his lust for his brother’s wife nor his brother’s rage at their affair. If that weren’t enough powder-keg tension, there’s an “accidental murder” a few pages later. These events set this family adrift as they scatter, then return in unfamiliar patterns. Swann takes her impetus from the Bible, but more so from Greek mythology, as the title teases. June (Juno) is married to Peter (Zeus) and abides his philandering to the point of treating his illegitimate adult twins as her own. Part of the enjoyment of reading Olympus, Texas, is guessing which character has a match in the mythology. However, familiarity with the myths is not a necessity; the story stands by itself. Olympus, Texas is an entertaining and engaging read.

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (List Price: $26.95, Doubleday, 9780385545211, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Jeannette Brown, union ave books in Knoxville, Tennessee

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Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

You say you want liberty, but you can never be free alone. None of us are free until all of us are. To be free of Bassa requires power– power in service of us all. Not for you to derive joy from controlling a beast.

In Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa introduces readers to a complex and fascinating new world. One with a complex cast system in which power is isolated in the bloated elite, the truth is hidden even from scholars, and anyone who looks different is exiled to the dangerous fringes of the continent. As a secret power from the time of a mad emperor reemerges and a sunken nation reappears, a young scholar and his intended follow two very different paths to save themselves and their people. I was completely entranced by this story. While he pulls no punches, Okungbowa does not need to lean into the grotesque to make his world compelling. I yelled, I cheered, I felt conflicted about my loyalties, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next. Content warnings for harm to children and pregnancy in addition to violent fantasy elements.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (List Price: $16.99, Orbit, 9780316428941, 5/11/2021)

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

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Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Think Weekend at Bernie’s but filled with hilarious, amazing, and brazen Chinese-Indonesian Aunties. I LOVED this book. Like, deep love. Like help dispose of a body and cover up a murder love. Dial A for Aunties is funny and outrageous and, surprisingly, romantic. If your family drives you crazy, but would also drive with a dead body in their trunk for you, then maybe you should cut them some slack and appreciate them. 😉

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (List Price: $26, Berkley, 9780593336731, 4/27/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

An old building housing a brothel stands in the middle of Soho. The young millionaire who owns the property wants to turn it into luxury condos. Unfortunately, the tenants aren’t going to leave without a fight. A riveting tale about wealth, class, gentrification, power, and gender, this story shows readers just how unjust the world can be, but in the most entertaining and amusing way possible. (And just look at that cover!) A 2021 must-read!

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley (List Price: $26.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643751559, 4/20/2021)

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

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Popisho by Leone Ross

Popisho is pure magic. While it’s clear that Ross pulls influence from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison among others, the beautifully rendered setting and fully-realized characters (and their magical powers) are unique and wholly refreshing. The musical language makes this novel sing—a song of lost love, fate-determining meals, political intrigue, winged drugs, and lots of sex and strange occurrences. Popisho is sparkling and saucy and sensual, and readers will find themselves hankering for its food, crying at its heartbreaks, and laughing (oh, there will be a lot of laughing) at its sly wit.

Popisho by Leone Ross (List Price: $28, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 9780374602451, 4/20/2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

The chosen one goes off to magic school and heroically fights in an epic battle. You’ve heard that story a million times before. But have you ever wanted the snarky take, the irreverent, self-aware version that flips these tropes upside down and lovingly pokes holes in some of the logical gaps in the genre’s conventions? Clever, refreshing, and full of heart, this hilarious adventure full of pesky magical creatures, golden boy warriors, angsty nerds, and elfin knights will leave you thinking that you might be perfectly alright living in this (mermaidless) land.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (List Price: $16, Big Mouth House, 9781618731661, 8/6/2019)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Trans.)

A gloriously unsettling collection of the weird and macabre, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is as enthralling as it is disturbing and will envelop readers in a loving and nightmarish embrace.Perfect for fans of Samanta Schweblin, Carmen Maria Machado, and Abbey Mei Otis.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Trans.) (List Price: $27, Hogarth, 9780593134078, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Zach Claypole White, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor’s book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a bright shining explosion of beautiful writing. Six of the eleven stories are linked and dipping back and forth into Lionel’s relationship with two dancers, Sophie and Charles, which is hypnotic. These stories about human relationships range from those between lovers, friends, and family. How is it that Taylor can write so that we can see the interior crevices of these character’s souls?

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (List Price: $26, Riverhead Books, 9780525538912, 6/22/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

The unnamed protagonist in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Whereabouts reflects on moments of a life lived in solitude, understanding what it means to observe the world around her, and find herself in the context of any given part of it. Even though hers is a mild life with subtle joys, walking the piazza or sitting in cafés when not in the classroom, there are still moments when being alone feels more lonely, enveloping her no matter where she goes. Whereabouts is a contemplative and beautiful story for the introverted, the blissfully isolated, or at the very least, those who, when alone, are able to truly find themselves.

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (List Price: $24, Knopf, 9780593318317, 4/27/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

A true continuation of Ishiguro’s question posed by Never Let Me Go: what does it mean to be human? Klara and the Sun uses a different futuristic device more common these days, humanoid companion AIs, in this Brave New World meets Black Mirror-esque narrative. With vague and growing details in the Ishiguro style he perfected in The Buried Giant, your discovery of the ultimate human question arrives in a moment of horror confronting the relationship between Klara (the AI), Josie (the child under this AIs care), and a portraitist with a strange mission. Josie is positioned as a sickly child in a mess of parental control over educational outcomes and the harsh world of the ethical implications when we long to hold on to the people in our lives just a little bit longer than nature allows. In beautiful simplistic prose, we converge on an intimate and fractured family holding on to the hope of a very scary and unknown world, daring to test the bounds of what it means to be human. This understated sci-fi drama will again change the way you view AIs and their place in the human paradigm, all the while falling in love with Klara and her concerted effort to simply comprehend humanity.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593318171, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Davis Shoulders, union ave books in knoxville, Tennessee

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The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Well, this was beyond lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed this story with it’s loveable cast of characters and the SIDE LOVE STORY. How refreshing that the love story, though present and beautiful, was mentioned, I think, about five times? Even so, I’m still swooning over George. SWOONING. Booksellers will adore this novel of a reader discovering her passion for books. Readers will love this novel for the tender descriptions of loving a book. And I love this novel for it’s honest, harsh descriptions of life during war. The losses great and small (which are often the ones that discourage most.) I can’t wait to shove this book into the hands of my customers. I cannot wait!

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin (List Price: $16.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335284808, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Annie Childress, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

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Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé

A fantastic new novel from an incredible writer. I loved every moment of Creatures of Passage and was hooked from the first page. Full of myth and mysticism, this is a complex web of stories that intersect in a way that slowly and gracefully unfolds. Complicated family relationships, systemic poverty and privilege, the transformative destruction of abuse, all of these themes and more create a beautiful and tragic look at the Anacostia neighborhood of DC.

Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé (List Price: $25, Akashic Books, 9781617758768, 3/16/2021)

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

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Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin
Pantheon, June

Joshua Henkin has issued an invitation to view the timeline of an American marriage. Columbia University professor, Spence Robin, was a young hotshot Shakespearean expert, capable of filling lecture halls with enraptured students. Pru Steiner was one of them. The attraction and love was immediate, the marriage secure and long-lasting. However, while only in his fifties, Spence receives the horrifying diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Their daughter is grown and gone and his son from a previous marriage has always been sporadically estranged; leaving Pru alone as Spence declines and she navigates the changes and loss of a great man. Morningside Heights is poignant, honest, thoughtfully observant, and skillfully wrought.

–Damita Nocton from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

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The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt
Grove, June

This was a blast! Hill country Kentucky noir with characters that both repulse and endear. A tough combo that works well with the plot of familial vengeance that piles up the bodies without understanding the cause that makes the blood boil so hot. Superb.

–Pete Mock from McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, NC

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Griffin, June

August has grown up believing that being alone is best. Then she moves to New York and gets caught up with her new wacky roommates, who drag her out of her comfort zone. And she meets Jane, a girl on the subway she has an instant connection with. The only problem is…Jane is literally stuck on the train, displaced somehow from her life in the 1970s. So August makes it her mission to solve the mystery of Jane and fix it so she can be where and when she belongs, even though August wants Jane to belong with her more than anything. If The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue were a rom-com, this would be it. McQuiston has written a big-hearted, laugh-out-loud funny, and tender novel that will speak to readers about love and connection and friendship and family.

– Melissa Oates from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

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Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ballantine, June

How good was this? So good I read it in one night. Reid Jenkins carefully crafts a multi-generational saga drenched in the sun of 20th century Malibu that made me love, empathize with, and occasionally want to shake all of the characters. This book almost serves to form a trilogy with Reid Jenkins’ previous novels-Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones. I certainly started rereading both after finishing Malibu.

– Tracie Harris from The Book House in Mableton, GA

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While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
Doubleday, May

Stacey Abrams shows us her genius in yet another way with this heart-pounding political thriller. I was hooked from page one when Avery Keene, a brilliant Supreme Court law clerk is named legal guardian and power of attorney for her difficult, enigmatic boss, Justice Howard Wynn after he slips into a coma. Lives, political careers, and billions of dollars are at stake as Avery works to figure out the clues that Justice Wynn left for her to figure out regarding one of the most controversial cases ever to come before the US Supreme Court. I was sitting on the edge of my seat for this one.

– Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

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Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber
Counterpoint, May

The characters in Joan Silber’s big-hearted new novel find happiness in mostly small and incremental ways that feel entirely true and resonate with the quiet power of relationship. I was immediately invested in the lives of this extended family-of-sorts, starting and ending with Ethan, a gay lawyer whose father is discovered to have a second family, acquired during his business travels to Asia. In between we meet people whose lives loosely intersect as they travel, figuratively and literally, towards their own versions of joy. Silber’s craft in linking her characters and her themes—connection, openheartedness, money—is seamless, but it’s her great gift for empathy that is sure to make this one of my favorite reads of this year.

– Clara Boza from Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC

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The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews
St. Martin’s Press, May

Is there anything MKA can’t write? Her mix of characters- strangers who become friends and even family; a story of two sisters who couldn’t be more different; the desperate attempt to hide an innocent child from her mother’s possible killer (or killers?) .. and the familiar coastal Florida setting all combine in a completely different nail-biter of a novel that will satisfy every reader- whether they prefer mysteries, romance, humor, thriller or beach reads. The Newcomer has it ALL and will be our FIRST pick for this summer’s beach bag!

– Jamie Anderson from Downtown Books in Manteo, NC

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Flatiron Books, April

A testament to the enduring bonds of struggle and love that tie us together beyond generations and borders. Truly the work of a measured poet, as Garcia shows the power of form, language, and structure in creating enduring scenes and images that I will carry with me for a long time. As these characters face heart-first the most dire concerns of our time—misogyny, xenophobia, hegemony, addiction—what comes to light is the beauty of the moments they share when they think about birds with claws, the ocean air, and the joy of being told a good story. Truly lovely and, ultimately, fortifying.

– Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA

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Malice by Heather Walter

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Malice by Heather Walter
Del Rey, April

Maleficent is one of the ‘villains’ of literature who has seen the most retellings in pop culture but I can confidently say that this is my favorite thus far. There is so much to love about this feminist, sapphic take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Alyce & Aurora are glorious, nuanced characters and their romance is a darkly glittering thing of beauty. This one is perfect for fans of Naomi Novik’s retellings & Holly Black’s Folk of the Air books.

– Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

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Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, April

I was not expecting to get sucked into this book so thoroughly, but sure enough, I blinked and my Sunday was gone and I had read the entire thing. This is an engrossing mystery that will have you biting your nails and possibly yelling at the characters, or maybe that was just me. Am I a little more paranoid now about leaving my child unattended? Yep. Am I making sure all my blinds are closed in our house? You betcha. Thanks a lot, Joshilyn Jackson, for giving me terrible nightmares. And a terrific day of reading.

– Jamie Rogers Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

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Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Set in Atlanta, Joshilyn Jackson’s newest novel Mother May I is a domestic mystery, filled with kidnapping, mothers’ angst, revenge, and youthful caprice, but the most compelling theme revolves around the parameters of sexual assault, the divergent definitions of such an assault, and the trauma’s lifelong, negative effects on the victim. The novel’s intricate plot commences with a baby kidnapping in Chapter 2, but the heart of the piece slowly, painstakingly unwinds into a decades-old rape that truncated the trajectory of myriad lives, including those of the participants. The characterizations of the protagonists could have morphed into mere stereotypes in the hands of a less skilled wordsmith. However, Jackson molds and shapes her characters into believable human beings. The dramatic lengths to which all of the mothers rabidly pursue their ultimate devotion, loyalty, and unconditional love for their respective offspring are inspirational. Each mother feels justified in her unorthodox, violent, vengeful actions even if the reader, the police, and the legal system may disagree. The plot of Mother May I moves swiftly, employing cunning twists and turns that whet the reader’s appetite for the truth and for an equitable resolution of the plethora of conflicts. The novel is thought-provoking and timely in the #MeToo era. 

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062855343, 4/6/2021)

Beth O’Brochta, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

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Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Inside the shimmering cover of this book is a fascinating modern look at the golden promise of the American Dream, and its dark underpinnings. Neeraj Narayan (or Neil, as he’s known in his Atlanta suburb) feels inferior to his over-achieving Asian American peers and unequipped to meet the expectations of his parents. So, when a magical solution presents itself in the form of a potion concocted by his neighbors, he’s all too willing to try it. This quick-fix has tragic consequences that continue to haunt him a decade later when he’s trying to find his footing in Silicon Valley as a graduate student writing his dissertation on the Gold Rush. This is a fascinating novel about history, ambition, addiction, and the question his sister and friends had to try and answer while competing in the Miss Teen India pageant: “What does it mean to be both Indian and American?”

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian (List Price: $27, Penguin Press, 9781984882035, 4/6/2021)

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

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A Mariner’s Tale by Joe Palmer

From the publisher who introduced us to JC Sassser’s Gradle Bird and Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s Trouble the Water, this is another evocative Southern tale, set on the Florida coast. Lauded by other Southern gems including Cassandra King Conroy and Nicole Seitz, I was obviously intrigued, and journalist-turned-debut-novelist Joe Palmer delivers. Love the interaction between a crotchety old sailor and the crime-bound kid he takes under his wing. In a world often gone mad, this book was a great reminder that among storms and strife there is genuine humanity.

A Mariner’s Tale by Joe Palmer (List Price: $17.99, Koehler Books, 9781646631452, 10/25/2020)

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

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Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

A book that combines my two favorite things–true crime podcasts and a page turning thriller! Season Three is going to be huge for podcaster Elle, she’s taking on The Countdown Killer years after he stopped killing. Cops think he’s dead, but Elle knows in her bones that he’s still out there. When the murders start up again, Elle must help determine if it’s the work of a copy cat, or if The Countdown Killer is back to finish his job. And when the killer draws her into his twisted game, Elle decides to play by her own rules.

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke (List Price: $25, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780358418931, 4/20/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

This book isn’t insightful, it is affirmative. This book isn’t an echo, it is a cave. It is an experience. Damn near the true story of every queer romance. Casey McQuinston somehow finds a way to once again tell a dauntingly fierce, honest story! With so much detail, presence, and inertia, McQuinston gives us such a fun and crucial experience of love in the queer communities of NYC. A spot on, pleasurable book!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (List Price: $16.99, St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250244499, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Amya Franklin, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

If Martha Wells wrote a Murderbot book every week, I would read a Murderbot book every week. Honestly, I’m pretty sure this series is what got me through 2020. Fugitive Telemetry (#6) can be read as a stand-alone or in order. It doesn’t matter. Our solitude-seeking killer robot protagonist is forced to solve the murder of a human on a planet. (He hates planets AND talking to humans! Why won’t everyone leave him alone so he can stream his media in peace?) Anyone who loves noir detective fiction will love this as well as sci fi fans. Just read it!!!

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250765376, 4/27/2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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