WHEN GHOSTS COME HOME by Wiley Cash

Set on Oak Island, North Carolina in the mid 1980s, WHEN GHOSTS COME HOME is a haunting story about family, prejudice, and small-town conflict. It’s part historical novel, part murder mystery, and part southern fiction. I read it slowly to enjoy the setting, the writing, the subtle rise in tension. But I had to fight…

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A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE by Sandra Allen

A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE is a unique work of nonfiction about mental illness. When Sandra Allen was studying for her MFA in writing, her Uncle Bob, a hermit she barely knew, mailed her the story of his life as a paranoid schizophrenic. The single-spaced manuscript was typed in all caps with run-on sentences and…

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry

I’m a sucker for love stories with damaged people, and this novel checks all my boxes: it’s fun, but serious and smart. Alex and Poppy’s adventures are hilarious, their dialogue is a riot, but they’re both quietly terrified—of love, of happiness, of losing each other. Poppy has always felt alone: in small town Ohio, in…

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HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott

I’ve been a Jason Mott fan since reading his debut, THE RETURNED. Jason writes with the beauty of a poet, and his stories make me think. And keep me thinking. His latest, HELL OF A BOOK, is a powerhouse of a novel: heartbreaking and hilarious; magical and raw. The protagonist, an unnamed Black author diagnosed…

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THE BADDEST GIRL ON THE PLANET by Heather Frese

Winner of the Lee Smith Book Prize, THE BADDEST GIRL ON THE PLANET is a gem of southern fiction with an unforgettable heroine. Set against the backdrop of crashing surf off the Outer Banks, it’s heartbreaking and zany, heartwarming and wise. Evie Austin, native of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, is the baddest girl on the…

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SWIMMING BETWEEN WORLDS by Elaine Neil Orr

SWIMMING BETWEEN WORLDS is a beautiful, evocative love story set against the backdrop of colonial Nigeria and the civil rights movement in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the late fifties. The writing is rich, the characters are unforgettable, and the descriptions of West Africa are spelling-binding. (The author was raised there—as the daughter of American missionaries.)…

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THE ROSE CODE by Kate Quinn

THE ROSE CODE, read by Saskia Maarleveld, is one of my favorite audiobooks of 2021. (Saskia also read THE HUNTRESS and is a master of accents—both male and female.) A fast-paced, high-stakes story about betrayal and redemption, this character-driven historical novel is set near my childhood home. (When one of the characters mentioned Bedford in…

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THIS IS GOING TO HURT by Adam Kay

This is Going to Hurt is a hilarious and sobering memoir that reveals both the funny and the serious sides of being a junior doctor.  The book is written through a series of diary entries that offer a peek into the six years Adam Kay worked his way up to senior registrar (attending physician) on a…

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SURVIVING SAVANNAH by Patti Callahan

I’m a huge Patti Callahan Henry fan, and SURVIVING SAVANNAH is my new favorite of her novels. Told through a dual time-line, it’s a page-turner that sent me down my own rabbit hole of research. (As a history major, I do love research!) I became obsessed with the true story of the Titanic of the…

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WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES by Denny S. Bryce

WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES is a stunning debut that weaves together two stories divided by one hundred years. Part mystery, part love story, part historical fiction, it’s an unforgettable tale of  passion, courage, survival, redemption, and strong women. And since Al Capone’s henchmen make a few appearances, there’s a murder. Or two. In 2015,…

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