This is such a smart novel about the true power of our choices. It made me think about my own mother and daughter, and how the act of motherhood is as fundamental as it is complex. It’s also a sharp picture of transformation in our little corner of the South. What a great book for book club discussion!
The Say So by Julia Franks, (List Price: 28, Hub City Press, 9798885740074, June 2023)
This one’s complicated. I picked it up with the expectation that I’d read just enough to confirm my guess that it’d be too cringey to stomach – because it’s about a liberal Black woman and a moderate-to-conservative white man who fall in love. But I quickly found that this book is NOT a romance, at least not in any genre sense. There’s romance in it, and certainly some heady chemistry, but it’s way more nuanced than that. Through the lens of this problematic relationship (which will spike your blood pressure and keep it high, I promise), Rabess interrogates identity–both individual and in-group–in a really brilliant, intensely readable, morally complex way.
The big question here is: can someone’s care for you as an individual outweigh their lack of understanding/care for you as a member of an identity group? How does complicity in systems of power–the main character works in finance–play a role in that determination? It’s extremely tangled, and Rabess doesn’t provide answers. Just really adept storytelling.
Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess, (List Price: 27.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982187705, June 2023)
Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
A quiet yet fierce meditation on birth and creation. Hall pulls us into her own private darkness- the losses of children and fear of death, the loss of the self, the unknowable countries upon which women set off for once they become mothers. All compared artfully to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; another story of God-power and chaos, love and despair. Freedom and choice.
Reproduction by Louisa Hall, (List Price: 30, Ecco, 9780063283626, June 2023)
What kind of scientist risks the little known rapids of a raging river to document plant life? The first scientists to boat down the Grand Canyon were no daredevils but two intrepid and determined women. Still their tale is full enough of drama and a motley crew of characters to make a great read. More than just a quirky bit of environmental history, their work still resonates today. Sevigny brilliantly captures their experiences as well as the political and social history of the Colorado River. A great read for anyone interested in women in science, natural history, or the American West
Brave the Wild River by Melissa L. Sevigny, (List Price: $30.00, W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393868234, May 2023)
Caroll Simpson and her husband David totally fell in love with a remote fly-in/boat-in fishing lodge named Ookpik Wilderness Lodge on Babine Lake in British Columbia and decided to buy it. With unbelievable beauty and natural wildlife, some of their life was a magical dream. They lived totally off-grid for two years until tragedy struck and David died. Would Caroll be able to live and maintain the lodge solo? She had amazing parents—her father, “a strong and powerful force in my life,” and her mother, “was the current that moved the river.” Besides having to fight off grizzlies and vicious pine martens, this awe-inspiring woman had to deal with logging issues and shattering deforestation in her watershed. She spent years battling loggers and proposed mining operations. This is a love story—a love of the wilderness and the astonishing natural beauty and the love of her dogs and being able to survive alone with only her own grit and determination. What an astonishing woman and what an amazing book! Unforgettable.
Alone in the Great Unknown by Caroll Simpson, (List Price: 22.95, Harbour Publishing, 9781550179941, April 2023)
I went from believing I was an undisciplined person to writing every single morning before work for an hour and eventually finishing a manuscript. I had to start telling a different story about myself because it took some level of consistency and commitment to be able to achieve that. It was also incredibly vulnerable. There was no magazine to hide behind that people already loved and trusted. It was just me and my words. ―Tembe Denton-Hurst, Interview, Morning Person
What booksellers are saying about Homebodies
A searing yet quiet novel that succeeds as a commentary on the racism ingrained within media content, as a relationship drama, and as a story of protagonist Mickey’s path to self-discovery and self-respect. Mickey is a completely believable and sympathetic character whose depression and every insecurity Denton-Hurst represented convincingly. And Lex and Mickey’s relationship troubles were handled so maturely and with such detail, I never really knew whose side to take, which is just what I wanted. A very full novel, but one that executes its various intentions very well.
― Sam Edge from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC
| Buy from Epilogue Books
Homebodies is a fresh, relatable debut about Mickey, a writer whose glamorous position at a media outlet is taken from her with little warning, prompting her to express her feelings about racism in the industry on Twitter–to little response. In the wake of her “failure”, Mickey struggles to keep up with her life in New York, feeling like a burden to her partner and a disappointment to her community. Seeking a break, Mickey returns home to Maryland to recalibrate and ends up questioning the life she’s created for herself, especially after running into an old flame. Funny, vibrant, and real!
―Julia Lewis from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore
Tremendous! Mickey’s coming-of-age story is equal parts career decisions and relationship choices. She’s a Black woman in the publishing industry, a writer, who is also a queer woman. Mickey’s story will truly speak to those two populations but will be so relatable to many. And she touches on body image things. You’ll nod along, get teary-eyed, and oh … not to be forgotten, prepare to be heavily entertained with the intimate details! She checks all the boxes of a great book. I’m an official fan of Tembe!
―Andrea Jasmin from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books
I absolutely loved this book! The attention to detail was immaculate. I loved the raw and touching emotion that Tembe Denton-Hurst portrayed. I was rooting for Mickey the entire time through her ups and downs. Denton-Hurst is a beautiful writer and cannot wait for more!
―Brooke Parrish from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books
This debut novel is AMAZING and I want to put it on everyone’s radar. Tembe Denton-Hurst is a young talent to watch. A smart and incisive examination of being a young Black woman in the workplace, but also a story of returning home, growing apart from childhood friends, and family expectations and first loves. It is so clever and self-aware and I enjoyed every page.
―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks
About Tembe Denton-Hurst
Tembe Denton-Hurst is a staff writer at New York magazine’s The Strategist and has written for Nylon magazine, them, and Elle. When she’s not writing, Tembe can be found on her couch in Queens, New York, where she lives with her partner and their two cats, Stella and Dakota.
Holly Goldberg Sloan has written the PERFECT beach book. With a little family drama, a handsome stranger who can rewire a crumbling hotel, a recent widow trying to help her three children find their place in the world, resident chickens, a beach ( of course) and a wicked twist that strikes out of the blue, Pieces of Blue begs to be in every beach bag this summer.
Pieces of Blue by Holly Goldberg Sloan, (List Price: 28.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250847300, May 2023)
I’ve been impatiently waiting for the second book in Sunny Hostin’s Oak Bluff series! Summer on the Bluffs left me wanting more of the drama, secrets, and jealousy from the three goddaughters of the iconic Ama and Omar. This is Olivia’s story, set once again in an exclusive Black beach community in the North East, this time it’s The Hamptons. I’m sure it won’t disappoint!
Summer on Sag Harbor by Sunny Hostin, (List Price: $30, William Morrow, 9780062994219, May 2023)
My kinda fare: a colorful palette of characters reminiscent of school days when you mush all the cafeteria food together on the tray then dare your neighbor to eat it. Blushworthy moments galore, like being shot from an early-oeuvre John Waters canon, to land in a Leonora Carrington net. A gourmet gag-fest, even more chokingly delicious in hindsight.
Cousins by Aurora Venturini, (List Price: 17.95, Soft Skull, 9781593767297, May 2023)
Clover our main character is already a bit of a loner when she experiences her first death at an early age when her teacher dies suddenly while reading Peter Rabbit. She also experiences the death of her parents and is moved to a new city to live with her grandpa who raises her. Shunned by others, because of our societies fear of death and the fact that no one ever speaks about it Clover becomes even more of a loner. She finds that her job makes it hard for her to meet and keep friends as speaking of death makes people extremely uncomfortable. This book definitely had me thinking and reflecting on my life, made me cry, and I walked away loving the characters and rooting for Clover feeling very happy with the way the book ended. I really enjoyed the originality of our main characters job as a death doula it very much intrigued me and peaked my curiosity to pick this book up definitely would recommend.
The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer, (List Price: 28, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250284396, May 2023)
As a woman in philosophy, not only did How to Think Like a Woman challenge me, but it gave me an overwhelming sense of being known. Regan Penaluna reclaims the conversation surrounding "the problem of women" with an honesty and self-awareness that is unmatched.
How to Think Like a Woman by Regan Penaluna, (List Price: $28, Grove Press, 9780802158802, March 2023)
“This novel was originally a short story that I began writing ten years ago. So, it is difficult to pinpoint its exact beginnings, but I know that I was thinking a lot about loss, family, the violence of migration, and identity. I watched a lot of reality tv in my twenties and the short story began with the premise: what if you recognized somebody from your past on tv, somebody who you lost? I’m interested too in the way that women disappear every day in real life and how representations of Black and Brown women are often missing or distorted in pop culture.” ―Claire Jiménez, Interview, She Reads
What booksellers are saying about What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez
For fans of Angie Cruz, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is at times laugh out loud hilarious while also delivering an poignant account of a young woman searching for herself as she searches for her sister. The first page left me breathless! Jimenez delivers a sophisticated, plainspoken account of a Latina teen grappling with the urge and opportunity to escape her Staten Island family while also recognizing the value of the intense, turbulent bond she has with her mother and sister.
―Adah Fitzgerald from Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina
| Buy from Main Street Books
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is the story of a missing Puerto Rican teenage girl living in New York, and the heartbreak that has amplified over the years since her discovery. When her sisters think they spotted their sister as an adult on a reality show, they begin a hopeful plan to find and bring Ruthy home. Jimenez is a talented storyteller, weaving in humor and letting each character shine while exploring a very real, very heartbreaking story. Highly recommended for book clubs and readers who enjoy books like Olga Dies Dreaming.
―Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina | Buy from Bookmarks
Two things are true about the Ramirez family: 1. Family is important 2. Family sticks together (right?) For over a decade, the Ramirez family has been struggling with the disappearance of Ruthy (oldest daughter, big sister). With no new information in years, the search feels over, that is until her sister’s see someone who looks remarkably like her on a reality TV show. Hijinks ensue as they attempt to get in contact with “Ruby” aka Ruthy without their mother finding out. But hey, sometimes family is you, your older sister, her baby, your mother, and your mother’s best friend who still dresses in powersuits. Funny, moving, and fast-paced, this is one book I’d recommend for literally anyone.
―Jamie Kovacs from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Buy from Flyleaf Books
About Claire Jiménez
Claire Jiménez is a Puerto Rican writer who grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island. She is the author of the short story collection Staten Island Stories, which received the 2019 Hornblower Award for a first book from the New York Society Library and was named a finalist for the International Latino Book Awards, a New York Public Library Favorite Book about New York, and Best Latino Book of 2019 by NBC News. She received her MFA from Vanderbilt University and her PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2020, she cofounded the Puerto Rican Literature Project, a digital archive. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Remezcla, AfroHispanic Review, PANK, The Rumpus, and Eater, among other publications. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is her debut novel.
In this gritty, ghostly Affrilachian gothic debut, Magnolia, in the wake of her grandmother’s death and possibly pregnant, takes an offer to “model” as the late beloveds of the rich at a funeral home run by the strange Mr. Cotton. The voice and the VIBES are all there, and this book has a lot to say about grief, death, race, class, and sex in the Bible Belt South. The writing is strong and beautiful—a writer to watch.
House of Cotton by Monica Brashears, (List Price: 27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250851918, April 2023)
Is there such a thing as a meet-ugly? Out of an utterly disastrous first "meeting" (they didn’t actually even meet, just started jumping to wrong conclusions) grew a ten-tissue romance for the ages. I also was delighted that the town of Wakan, the actual seemingly "inanimate" objects in the vaguely magical town, such a huge silent character in Part of Your World, got a bit role in Yours Truly. No one does foreshadowing like Abby Jimenez.
Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez, (List Price: 16.99, Forever, 9781538704394, April 2023)
Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“I began writing Weyward during the early days of the pandemic, fuelled by anger about the increase of domestic violence during lockdown. At the same time, I was also reading about the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials. The two seemed horribly linked. I wondered: how far have we really come in the fight against misogyny? How can we keep going?
For me, the answer is by connecting with the women around us, and those who came before us. And story is connection. At the heart of the novel is a manuscript written by Altha Weyward, on trial for witchcraft in 1619. Her descendants, Violet in 1942 and Kate in 2019, both find and read Altha’s story. For Violet and Kate, the act of reading – of connecting with a woman who lived centuries before – is life changing.” ―Emilia Hart, Harper Reach
What booksellers are saying about Weyward
In this utterly captivating debut, Hart manages to weave an intricate, beautifully written novel about three women and their inextricable connection to nature. This intergenerational tale snared me from the first page and wouldn’t let go. If you enjoy complex conversations about legacy, gender and control, nature and witchy-ness, and female power, this should be next on your list.
―Hannah Kerbs, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus
Eerily scandalous are the Wayward women! They are different and misunderstood but discover their strength when they need it! Mesmerizing tale! Couldn’t put it down!
―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL | Buy from Parnassus
Weyward weaves a spellbinding tale empowering women through their supernatural connection to the natural world. Told in three different timelines across five centuries we get engrossed the lives of Altha, Violet and Kate as they discover the power and strength they never knew they had.
―Sharon Davis from Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, GA | Buy from Book Bound Bookstore
First-born women born into the Weyward family have a supernatural affinity with nature. This gift comes with a curse making them too attractive to abusive men. Hart’s novel interweaves the stories of 4 generations of Weyward women as they find their power and their way in a hostile world. Their stories hold just enough suspense to keep the pages turning and just enough hope to make the read satisfying. A worthwhile addition to witch shelves.
― Jan Blodgett from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books
About Emilia Hart
Emilia Hart grew up in Australia and studied English Literature at university before training as a lawyer. Weyward is her debut and was Highly Commended by the Caledonia First Novel Prize. Emilia lives in London.