Celeste Ng$29.00 $26.68
- Oh, I hope and pray this is a runaway blockbuster when it releases in October; it deserves to be. Dystopian synopsis - our government can re-home children on the basis of an anonymous report of seditious parental behavior. One woman uses poetry to combat this, and the rampant anti-Asian hate that is taking over society, as hero librarians behind the scenes attempt to document fractured family ties. If you didn’t already know Celeste Ng is a force, this book can illuminate your perspective.
Corban Addison$30.00 $27.60
If you enjoy southern mysteries, true crime, or procedural thrillers, this book is for you (particularly if you've ever driven down Interstate 40 towards coastal North Carolina and wondered "What is that smell?"). I grew up in Duplin County, the primary setting of this story. The nuisance lawsuit described in this book is the culmination of decades of environmental racism perpetrated by Smithfield Foods and its subsidiaries on folks who just wanted to enjoy clean, country air on the land their families had owned, often for generations. Rather than the freedom to sit on their porch with clothes drying on a line, the plaintiffs in these suits were forced indoors as actual hog waste was sprayed into their air (and homes and occasionally well water…) by corporate farmers attempting to eliminate a problem that could have been handled by a multitude of more “neighborly” methods. Nuisance lawsuits like these rarely see a court room, as the expense of taking on such a large conglomerate is enormous, and the likelihood of remuneration is rare. Through an incredibly lucky set of circumstances - described at length in the early chapters of this book - a legal dream team came together and realized the value of righting this grave injustice; the team was composed of lawyers from across the country, but spearheaded by Mona Lisa Wallace, of Salisbury's Wallace & Graham Law Firm (conveniently located less than a mile down the road from my bookstore in Salisbury NC). I downloaded this ARC simply because I love a good true crime story, having no idea that I knew many of the characters described in these pages; I also was far too familiar with the stench my former neighbors continued to find themselves surrounded by decades after my family was able to move away from it. I am certain I will sell dozens of copies of this book this summer, and I am so grateful to know that so many heroes in this story are my neighbors now. They did a tremendous service to others in our state, and deserve all the high praise contained in WASTELANDS.
Kristy Woodson Harvey$27.00 $24.84
Kristy Woodson Harvey's ninth novel, and first work of historical fiction, THE WEDDING VEIL, delivers incredible characters who vividly come alive from the prologue on. A young Edith Dresser, wearing roller skates in her mother’s boudoir, tries on a wedding veil, and is mesmerized by her mother’s tender prognostication for her future wedded bliss. Flashforward a few years, and Edith marries George Vanderbilt, who whisks her off on a European honeymoon before she nervously boards a train to a far-off new home, the Biltmore Estate. She doesn’t know what her future in the North Carolina mountains will hold, but she is ready to create a house united with her husband and the people of their new community. Contemporary romance readers will thoroughly enjoy the chapters set in modern day as the mystery of one wedding veil changes multiple life stories.
Dawn Quigley and Tara Audibert$4.99 $4.59
A lovely new voice on the tween scene is JOJO MAKOONS by Dawn Quigley and illustrated by Tara Audibert (80 pp, 1 book in series so far, Heartdrum). This book is part of the “WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS” campaign, celebrating JoJo's life on an Ojibwe Native American Reservation through relatable tales of her friends, school, and delightful relationship with her cat, Mimi.
Lyla Lee and Dung Ho$5.99 $5.51
This series displays great depth of story for an emerging reader (I must note a trigger warning here for Mindy's deceased mom, who passed away after extended illness prior to this series' origin). My daughters are obsessed with Mindy's campaigns to obtain a dog, good friends, and fantastic vacations; I appreciate Mindy’s politeness and kindness, which are not often on display within the characters of early chapter books.
S a Cosby$26.99 $24.83
RAZORBLADE TEARS by S. A. Cosby (336 pp, Flatiron Books) is one of the greatest novels regarding the search for retribution I have ever read; I finished this book is one sitting. Cosby – author of last year’s BLACKTOP WASTELAND - tells the tale of two homophobic fathers (and former felons) who begrudgingly join forces to solve the murder of their married sons when no one else will; this book stars incredibly unique main characters whose inner struggles over their failings as parents are described with aching clarity. The hypocrisy of nearly every character is laid bare as the body count rises in this story. I came for the unusual premise, and I stayed for the main characters’ delicious banter: "Folks like to talk about revenge like it's a righteous thing, but it's just hate in a nicer suit." There are a very few minor plot holes here and I would have enjoyed a couple more realistic glimpses of the murdered couple - who are seemingly perfect (they saved for their own funerals) - but there are some true moments of beauty in this tale, which I highly recommend for a fast-paced thrill of a read.
Maggie Shipstead$28.95 $26.63
Maggie Shipstead’s THE GREAT CIRCLE (608 pp, Knopf) took me much longer to finish than RAZORBLADE TEARS, but I clung to every word of this adventurous novel, which spans the globe over most of the early 20th century, as airplanes opened the world to those unafraid to travel – along with those who had nothing to risk losing. This book is a sweeping epic that I fear many will avoid only due to its length - and what a sad omission that would be. The central story reminds me a bit of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY or PACHINKO - a thorough examination of a family experiencing exceptional circumstances (mainly due to war). It took me a while to warm to the present-day narrator of this story (an entitled actress named Hadley, who is portraying the primary character, fictitious aviator Marian Graves, in a film), but I enjoyed most of Hadley’s realizations as her story progressed in-between flashbacks to Marion’s past. Shipstead is a remarkable writer, very descriptive without devolving into wordiness. I did feel this one went on slightly longer than it should have, but only by about 3 pages towards the end. THE GREAT CIRCLE is well worth your time this summer if you are ready to invest a few days in a grand journey within your mind.
Anne Sebba$28.99 $26.67
Nearly 70 years ago, in June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted by the US government for conspiring to commit espionage for the Soviet Union. Despite remaining an enduring American cultural phenomenon, in part due to her shockingly young, orphaned sons, I learned much from Sebba’s thorough research and balanced depiction of Ethel’s next-to-nil culpability and steadfast loyalty to family (even towards her dreadful brother, David Greenglass, who likely perjured himself at her trial to save himself). I cannot recommend this book enough given Ethel’s well-documented devotion to others at the risk of grave personal peril.
Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt$18.99 $17.47
The actual perfect children's book - for kids and adults!
Wiley Cash$28.99 $26.67
Wiley Cash’s latest novel, WHEN GHOSTS COME HOME (pp. 304, expected publication Sept 21, 2021 by William Morrow), is damn near the most perfect crime thriller I have ever had the pleasure to read. Propulsive and character driven, I could NOT put this one down, and I stayed up all night to finish it - my heart was pounding by the end. I did not want it my experience with this book to be over when the story concluded; WHEN GHOSTS COME HOME is such an amazing read and I imagine I will be hard pressed to find someone to disagree with that statement after picking it up later this year in my bookstore. Winston Barnes, Oak Island, North Carolina’s aging sheriff, appears to be failing in his bid for reelection, when he is awoken by the sound of a plane crash at the nearby municipal airport and arrives first on the scene of an obvious crime. There is enough to fill a novel with tales of Barnes’ detective work that follows, but the real story, the heart of this novel, lies in Mr. Cash’s tender depiction of two families mired in complete turmoil. Barnes is nearly as preoccupied with losing the sheriff’s race as solving this crime, as his wife’s cancer is progressing rapidly, and they will lose their healthcare coverage without his continued employment. Their daughter, Colleen, blows into town from Dallas without her new husband, or any notice to her parents, to grieve the loss of her stillborn child and re-determine the course of her life. Across town, the family of Rodney Bellamy is also picking up the pieces of their shattered lives in the wake of tragedy. Patriarch, Ed Bellamy, a war veteran and respected high school teacher, wants answers in the wake of his son’s mysterious death, and he does not believe he will obtain accurate ones from the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office. Rodney’s wife, Janelle, is overwhelmed caring for the couple’s infant son and her teenage brother, Jay, who recently arrived in town after a skirmish with law enforcement near their parents’ home in Atlanta. Everyone is a suspect, and tensions are bubbling over between families and political factions as this well-paced novel edges towards its jaw-dropping conclusion. Set in 1984, I hold out hope for a present-day sequel, but until then, I will recommend Mr. Cash’s latest book to anyone looking for a compelling read, and I hope this one raises his national profile substantially, as it should.
Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James$17.99 $16.55
For the kids – the incredible local team of Derrick Barnes (author) and Gordon C. James (illustrator) has produced I Am Every Good Thing (512 pp, Margaret K. McElderry Books), which includes heartwarming drawings of families living in our own community. This gorgeous book has already drawn nationwide praise from Drew Barrymore among others; Barnes and James were featured during one of Barrymore’s first segments as the host of her eponymous talk show. I am a nonstop ball of energy. Powerful and full of light. I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader. The confident young narrator of this picture book, perfect for a 4 to 8-year-old, is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He has big plans, and he will see them through as he is creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. Other times he is afraid, as he is so often misunderstood and called names. The moral of this story is to slow down and really listen to others, to notice the signs when someone reveals to you the truth of who they are.
Joanna Ho and Dung Ho$17.99 $16.55
EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho (40 pp, HarperCollins) – a 2021 publication focused on one girl’s discovery of the differences in the shape of her eyes from those of her friends. The girl notes how her eyes, and those of the women in her family, are filled with stories from the past, hope for the future, and they are all beautiful – and so is this story, which I hope your family will enjoy as well. My eyes find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down. My lashes curve like the swords of warriors and, through them, I see kingdoms in the clouds. My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution.
Charlotte McConaghy$26.99 $24.83
Australian Charlotte McConaghy's debut novel begins in Greenland with Franny Stone tagging some members of the world’s only remaining flock of arctic terns. Why is she alone in her research endeavor to track their migratory patterns? Why is she desperate to join any private fishing vessel that will have her aboard to follow these birds? Her motivations are slowly revealed as the book shifts back and forth between scenes from her mysterious life. This is a gorgeous tale of a woman literally adrift at sea.
Susan Orlean$16.99 $15.63
A true crime love letter to libraries - perfection!
Jon Krakauer$17.00 $15.64
Deeply troubled by 9/11. Pat Tillman walked away from his NFL contract for the US Army. This book - by my favorite author - exposes shattering truths about men and war.
Michelle Lanier and Dare Coulter$14.95 $13.75
Deborah Marcero$17.99 $16.55
IN A JAR by Deborah Marcero (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) – a Spring 2020 release that may have escaped your notice, given world events at the time. This gorgeous book chronicles the friendship of two rabbits, Llewellyn and Evelyn, who collect seemingly uncollectable things (rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before a snow fall) to display in jars on shelves in their neighboring homes – until Evelyn announces she is moving away. Their inventive ways to continue sharing their discoveries is such an inspired tale for kids finding themselves with a smaller, but hopefully just as creative, social circle these days.
Dave Eggers$19.99 $18.39
HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris (104 pp, Chronicle Books) – published in 2017 by one of my favorite authors of adult nonfiction (Dave Eggers previously wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and Zeitoun, among other titles), I kept a copy of this picture book on my desk in Embassies over the world to remind my colleagues and I what it means to be an American. Starting with the true tale of the Statue of Liberty’s creation in France and eventual rehoming on Ellis Island in New York City, Eggers leave the reader with deep questions of what the Statue literally “stands” for – is her leg displaying the intent to move, and does that movement appear bound for the sea? I am continually left with goosebumps towards the conclusion of this story, as we realize Lady Liberty is breaking free of her chains to meet new arrivals to the United States where they are, to accept them as they are, to welcome them to our shores. Sometimes children’s literature can possess a grander statement than works intended for adults; this is one of those books.
Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys$17.99 $16.55
Tracy Kidder$18.00 $16.56
Inspiring book for anyone with an interest in healthcare - if this book doesn't stir a medical vocation, none would.
William J. Burns$20.00 $18.40
Written by one of the great statesmen of our time, Burns – who retired from public service in 2014 as Deputy Secretary of State after 34 years as a diplomat – provides a clear-eyed, first person account of the highs and lows of American foreign policy in recent decades. Read this book to understand how we as a nation stand in the world now, how we got to this point, and what our future diplomatic ties could entail.
George Packer$16.00 $14.72
Collection of stories of Americans across party lines. Great, unbiased look at who we are as a country and what got us here.
Therese Anne Fowler$27.99 $25.75
Exceedingly worthy of anyone’s time, Theresa Anne Fowler’s novel, A Good Neighborhood (320 pp. St. Martin’s Press, $27.99), profiles two families in conflict – first, over a dying tree separating their yards; later, to thwart a budding teenage love affair. Authored from the perspective of their neighbors in a non-descript town in North Carolina, Fowler painstakingly attempts to detail rising tensions between families of differing races while skirting criticisms of cultural appropriation that surrounded Jeanine Cummins’ recent release, American Dirt. She succeeds in providing a tragically beautiful tale of wasted youth under the shade of an oak tree, and the glares of those hidden behind window blinds.
Jennifer Finney Boylan$26.99
If your pops has a soft spot for animals, Jennifer Finney Boylan's Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs (272 pp. Celadon Books, $26.99), could be the perfect Father's Day present. As a transgender woman who began life as a boy, its in the dogs that I owned pre-transition that I can now understand men, and the person I once was, a long time ago. This book could be the next classic memoir heartwarming and illuminating.