Bazawule swiftly drops you into an immediate and tumultuous love story between Bernadette and Melvin as they escape the States seeking a fantastical refuge in 1960s Ghana. This piece is deeply heartbreaking, yet manages to hold it together through its magical storytelling. “Queen and Slim” fans will love this novel as its deep cinematic influence encourages evocative visuals and sentient understandings of the character’s interiors.
The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593496237, June 2022)
I get that the term "transportive" is overused in blurbs, but I don’t know how else to describe this gorgeous novel from Kali Fajardo-Anstine. I was swept away by Woman of Light, which follows five generations of the Lopez family from the nineteenth century into the 1930s, spanning across the Western territories of America. In beautiful, decadent prose, Fajardo-Anstine shows us everything from traveling circus acts and fortune tellers, to turn of the century Denver nightlife, house parties and wedding festivities. This is a love letter to the American West that was left out of the classic cowboy films, to the Indigenous and Latinx communities who have lived there for centuries. I loved every word.
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, (List Price: 28, One World, 9780525511328, June 2022)
“This book was like a gift…it came to me right when I was getting absolutely no work done because my midlife crisis turned out to be not a red mustang but a little black pony. I became a horse-crazy girl in my middle age.” —Geraldine Books, interview
What booksellers are saying about Horse
Wow! Brooks knows how to tell a story and this one weaves many characters that all have one thing in common: The Horse called Lexington, a great racehorse but also the greatest sire of the late 19th Century. Lexington was a real horse, and this novel contains true facets of his life and real people around him, but also fictional characters that cared for him both during his life and after his death. We have a big equestrian community in our county and they will love this, as will book clubs. ―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC Buy from The Country Bookshop
Horse by Geraldine Brooks Brooks has woven an extraordinary adventure about Lexington, a Kentucky thoroughbred. His accomplishments were extraordinary. He won all but one of his races but more significantly his legacy as the most successful leading sire in America during the last half of the nineteenth century makes him unparalleled in horse history. Other figures play into this story: Jarrett, the slave boy groom who loved him, Thomas Scott, the painter who captured Lexington on canvas and others whose contributions were significant. A fascinating story! Brooks is a masterful storyteller! I loved it! ―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL Buy from Page & Palette
A compelling and beautifully-crafted story with a mystery at its giant, horse-sized heart. This is a book about the fragility of life, love, and liberty for people of color in this country, in the past and in the present day. ―Maggie Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC Buy from Flyleaf Books
About Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March and the international bestsellers The Secret Chord, Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Born and raised in Australia, Brooks lives in Massachusetts.
I inhaled this book in a day! If you loved Daisy Jones and the Six you will adore this book based on Talitha Getty and her husband as they lived the sex, drugs and abundantly hippie lifestyle. Told through the naive eyes of a girl who happened on the scene after being thrown out of her home by her evil step-mother, this takes you behind the scenes to what it was really like. “Close” friendships and love affairs are not what they seem and the lifestyle can only burn out. The ride you are on with this book is incredible. Fun introspective read.
Sister Stardust by Jane Green, (List Price: $26.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335425782, April 2022)
Whether as a stand-alone read or for already die-hard fans of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, The Book Woman’s Daughter delivers! Honey, the original book woman’s daughter, must struggle to stay free against what seem often insurmountable odds against her: from being a “blue” to being fifteen, and unfortunately perhaps most, for being female in a time and place where women were considered property. Amidst loss and persecution, she must forge a path for hersef through the dense woods of Kentucky’s Appalachia Kentucky. Beautiful, evocative, and full of adventure, this book also shines a light on the gifts of friendship, no matter the appearance of the package. I loved this book every bit as much as Troublesome Creek, and look forward to sharing it with eager readers, just as Honey shares her love of books with her reading community… another fine work by Kim Michele Richardson!
The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson, (List Price: $26.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728252995, May 2022)
Readers of Kaikeyi will be pulled into this lyrical counternarrative of the reviled queen from the ancient epic Ramayana. Known as a jealous, villainous stepmother who banished Rama and put her own son on the throne, Patel tells a much more nuanced, compassionate tale of a brave woman caught between manipulative gods and a patriarchal society who nevertheless tries to improve the lot of women in her kingdom. Kaikeyi’s voice is stunningly spirited, and Patel’s mesmerizing prose is immersive and inventive. This will definitely appeal to fans of mythological retellings in the vein of Circe.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, (List Price: $28.00, Redhook, 9780759557338, April 2022)
A beautiful and strange novel full of magic, friendships, and hard truths. The search for voice & freedom, the drive to be heard, a reconciliation with past trauma and a future filled with hope weave a story I couldn’t let go of.The city of Budapest and the Danube are integral characters as Csilla discovers her worth. Along with a student revolutionary leader and a kind hearted angel of death, Csilla transforms the world around her into one filled with color.
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke, (List Price: $18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593381243, April 2022)
Quite simply one of the most beautiful books I’ve read all year. Historical fiction with well-drawn heroines and interesting love stories aren’t uncommon. What makes this book absolutely sing is the care and attention given to all the relationships in this book. The mother who has lost her child and the child who has lost his family; women forging deep, meaningful friendships that are treated with the same importance as the romantic entanglements; and perhaps even better, everyone grows. In a field cluttered with WWII era novels this book rises about the field with its unusual setting and lovely relationships, but also with the author’s distinct voice and prose.
Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft (List Price: $27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250274762, March 2022)
Booth is about more than resurrecting a villain from the history books, though it does shine a spotlight on John Wilkes Booth from birth to his infamous assassination of President Lincoln. This is a tale of the entire Booth family, who might be remembered for their theatrical celebrity — from father Junius Booth to his three thespian sons, Edwin, John, and June — but for the crime that brought shame to the clan forevermore. The story takes its time, meandering through births, deaths, and sibling conflicts, and focusing much of its attention on the sisters who had to live in their brothers’ shadow. In the background throughout is Abraham Lincoln, who was gradually making his way to the White House, while the issue of slavery increasingly divided the country. We know about the big battles, from Gettysburg to Antietam, but here we also see the smaller riots and uprisings that inflamed someone like Booth to take matters in his own hands.
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, (List Price: $28.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593331439, March 2022)
Readers will be stunned by the force of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s latest novel. Set in Brooklyn during the Civil War era and the turbulent times after, the voice of Libertie Sampson describes her unique childhood as the freeborn daughter of a Black, widowed female doctor. Libertie’s mother has aspirations for her daughter to follow her path and join her in her practice. Two things prevent Libertie from choosing this course: her darker skin tone lessens her level of acceptance in the community and she doesn’t have the aptitude for medicine. Rather than face her mother’s disappointment, she marries a Haitian doctor and leaves the country with him. She finds herself lonelier than ever in this tumultuous island country.This is a highly immersive and unforgettable literary accomplishment.
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge, (List Price: $16.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643752587, February 2022)
I’ve never before encountered a novel to plunge me into the heart of the Civil War like this. As the War still rages, a Black Union Brigade is formed of recently freed slaves. Dick, semi-acknowledged son of a slave and her master, is an honest and eloquent observer of slave-master relations. Now he fights for Gen. Edward Wild, leading the hunt for rebel fighters as he steels himself to clash with his former master. I felt all of Dick’s emotional journey as he progressed from slave to wartime leader and beyond. The Outer Banks setting for much of the action is beautifully portrayed.
Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade, (List Price: $27.00, Grove Press, 9780802159199, February 2022)
Ruta Sepetys tackles the little-known subject of communist Romania with the gut-wrenching, suspenseful story of Cristian. He dreams of writing but instead is blackmailed to turn on everyone he loves. His story explores the endurance of the human spirit even in the toughest circumstances.
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, (List Price: $18.99, Philomel Books, 9781984836038, February 2022)
Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee
"What I really like about SFF is how it can offer meaningful representation of marginalized identities in a gentler and more cathartic way than realistic contemporary fiction…SFF is really good at is creating types of otherness that don’t exist in the real world. Readers can project aspects of themselves into these characters without having to have the character accurately represent all of our real-life experiences. It helps sidestep that reaction of “oh, that isn’t my experience of my identity.” "–Shelley Parker-Chan (via Locus Magazine)
What booksellers are saying about She Who Became the Sun
What a powerful book and an epic of a debut! The exploration of gender and gender identity wrapped in the epic fantasy package is just *chef’s kiss* This book is so magically queer, and it was extremely powerful to see these amazing genderqueer characters take center stage in such a sweeping and beautiful story. The writing is immersive and lyrical, the characters are compelling, and I was sucked in right from the beginning. It’s brutal, it will wreck you, and you will finish wanting so much more. A must read of the summer!! ― Candice Huber from Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop in New Orleans, LA Buy from Tubby & Coo’s
This powerful, sweeping debut tracks female monk Zhu Chongba as she refuses to succumb to nothingness in 1345 Mongol-ruled China. The side characters are complex, the world building is immense, and Zhu’s quest to be great is filled with unexpected twists and turns. ―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN Buy from Parnassus Books
She Who Became the Sun is a grim military fantasy about identity, gender, public versus private perception, and most of all ambition: who are you when you force destiny to take notice of you? What horrors will you commit to keep destiny’s attention? Zhu Chongba disguises herself as a man (specifically, a monk) in order to stave off death by starvation during a drought. Along the way, she gets involved with fighting the invading Mongols, using her cleverness rather than military brawn to gain power. — ―Whitney Sheppard from The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, AL Buy from Snail on the Wall
I can say without a doubt, right now, this is my number one book of the year. And I’ve read a lot of books already and have many more to read. I’m a history person, I have a bachelors in history, so when this book was pushed to me as the reimagined story of the founder of the Ming dynasty but Sapphic, I, a Sapphic history lover was very intrigued. It takes a little bit to properly slide into the flow of the book and the main character, but once you’re in, you are IN. The dialogue flows so beautifully and snappy, the characters fold around each other as the history we already know unfolds around them. And the betrayals! The hunger for destiny and revenge! I loved every single second of this absolutely golden book, and can’t wait for the next! ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC Buy from Bookmarks
About Shelley Parker-Chan
Shelley Parker-Chan is an Australian by way of Malaysia and New Zealand. A 2017 Tiptree Fellow, she is the author of the forthcoming historical fantasy novel She Who Became the Sun. Parker-Chan spent nearly a decade working as a diplomat and international development adviser in Southeast Asia, where she became addicted to epic East Asian historical TV dramas. After a failed search to find English-language book versions of these stories, she decided to write her own. Parker-Chan currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is very grateful to never have to travel by leaky boat ever again.
The only thing that’s small about this book is its title. Clocking in at just under 500 pages, Small World is a continent-spanning, era-hopping epic. In the present day, a group of strangers find themselves bound by fate on a train hurtling up the west coast, while in the 19th century their pioneering ancestors – immigrants, Native Americans and former slaves – struggle for survival. Despite juggling a large cast, Evison handles the multiple narratives with aplomb, creating an engrossing page-turner that also raises important questions about the American dream and what it means to be American.
Small World by Jonathan Evison, (List Price: $28.00, Dutton, 9780593184127, January 2022)
Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
"It was the sense of possibility, of how easily America could have been something else, how easily it could become something else, that I wanted to explore in all three of these books. Because there have been certain moments in America’s creation, certain turning points where the country could have gone another way. "–Hanya Yanagihara (via The Bookseller)
What booksellers are saying about To Paradise
A deeply resonant and astoundingly beautiful novel, Yanagihara’s To Paradise is a book to savor and is sure to satisfy readers who loved A Little Life. Told in three distinct parts that all speak to each other in interesting ways, Yanagihara’s powerful prose once again takes center stage and I loved getting "lost" in her beautiful writing. A gorgeously somber and powerful novel that I can’t wait for readers to get there hands on. Bring tissues! ― Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC Buy from Bookmarks
To Paradise is complex, thorny in that specific Yanagihara way, heartbreaking, wonderful. Masterful. The author is definitely reaching for Big Ideas, asking Big Questions. Actually, the Biggest Question: what is the meaning of life?…To Paradise is a celebration of and call for full, expansive humanity and human connection. To Paradise is the best thing I’ve read in…a long time. It’s truly, in my estimation, a great work. ―Matt Nixon from A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA Buy from A Cappella Books
The brilliant author of A Little Life creates three novels that echo one another: one that creates alternative 19th century New York City; another set during the 20th century AIDS crisis; and a final dystopian novel that takes place about seventy years in the future. This book is massive in size and scope, and deals with issues of politics, race, sexuality, and global pandemics, but is at its most powerful when describing the everyday lives of people who intend to do good, but don’t always succeed. ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA Buy from Righton Books
About Hanya Yanagihara
Hanya Yanagihara is an American novelist, editor, and travel writer. She grew up in Hawaii and currently lives in New York City.