THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW  by Jessica Strawser

THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW  releases in March 2022, and it’s a novel to pre-order. I finished reading an advanced copy multiple books ago, and the lead characters continue to haunt me. Two broken people trapped in the past and lost in the present, Mason and Nova share a powerful, memorable story. At thirty-six, indie…

Read More

Billy Summers by Stephen King

I’m a fan of Stephen King’s writing, but as a founding member of Wusses-R-Us, most of his novels are outside my comfort zone. Until BILLY SUMMERS. How can you not fall for a hitman who hides behind a dumb self, while thinking about Zola’s THERESE RAQUIN?  Yes, he reads the classics … but uses comic books…

Read More

THE PEOPLE WE KEEP by Allison Larkin

THE PEOPLE WE KEEP is a unique coming-of-age story about resilience, the power of music, the need to belong, and the quest to find—and accept—the family of your heart. There are many wonderful characters in this book—generous souls who reach out to the lost and broken young heroine, April. But April’s journey is a solitary…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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.)…

Read More

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…

Read More