Annie's Nightstand: August 2014.

I managed to clock in eight books for the month of August. Here's my take on what you might want to read next:

The Fever by Megan Abbott. This was an early August selection, so I've been recommending it to readers and customers for about a month, and the description I give is always the same: The Crucible meetsGone Girl (I happened to love both). Megan Abbott writes at a ferocious pace; I stayed up way past my bedtime finishing The Fever, a twisted tale revolving around teenage girls who seem struck by the same frenzied panic and plague -- both physical and emotional. It sounds like the plot to a bad Lifetime movie, but I assure you, Abbott handles the novel with dignity. If you're looking for a good suspense story to close out the summer, this one's for you.

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth. Even booksellers need reading recommendations, and I found a mention of Flying Shoes in a recent issue of Garden & Gun. Lisa Howorth is a fellow bookstore owner -- her store, Square Books, continues to make the lists of best indie bookshops in the South -- so I figured Flying Shoes would be worth my time. The premise reads like the introduction to a spine-tingling thriller, but I actually think that description does the book a disservice. The novel -- which centers on Mary Byrd Thornton, a woman whose 9-year-old brother was molested and killed in the late eighties -- was based on the murder of Lisa's own brother, but the story doesn't stop there. A crime novel, this is not. Instead, Flying Shoes is dark and tangled and at times, oddly funny; Lisa knows the South, and it shows. Her cast is as wide-ranged and varied as the Southerners I know; read the book for those Southern characters alone. 

Small Blessings by Martha Woodruff. When people ask what my favorite types of books are, I'm never quite sure what to say. I read a lot, and I try to read a fairly diverse selection of topics and types. Small Blessings, though, is my kind of book; I found myself cheering for the characters and relishing each page of the story. In the novel, a small town college professor meets his match in a new woman running the campus bookshop; it's not a love story so much as it is a life story, and because of my own small town, small campus dealings, I found a lot to root for in the story. This is my go-to recommendation for fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry or the Mitford books. It's just an all-around lovely book. 

Defending Jacob by William Landay. So many customers have been recommending this one for ages, and I finally snagged a copy for a plane ride in which I inexplicably ran out of reading material (I blame my misfortune on two delayed flights). I'm glad I had somehow read through my packed bag of books, though, because Defending Jacob was the perfect book for a long flight, and it was just as powerful as all of my fellow readers suggested it would be. District Attorney Andy Barber finds himself on the other side of the courtroom in William Landay's novel, and he could never have predicted his client: his teenage son Jacob, accused of stabbing a classmate to death in a picture-perfect settingEvery month, I stumble across a book I know would make a fine book club pick, and this is it for August. If you haven't read it yet, now is the time. 

True Grit by Charles Portis. I think our entire staff read this one in preparation for our Film Society meeting last month; I had, bizarrely, seen the film version before I'd read the Charles Portis novel, and upon finishing, I couldn't understand how I'd never stumbled across it before. Hannah's got a great review up on the blog, so all I'll add is my belief that True Grit deserves a spot as one of America's classics, in the bookstore and in the classroom. I can't believe Mattie Ross isn't mentioned alongside her spunky counterparts: Jo March, Anne Shirley, Ramona Quimby, Scout Finch. If you haven't read True Grit, give it a try. Mattie deserves a read. 

Friendswood by Rene Steinke. Rene Steinke had me just a few pages into Friendswood -- in one brief paragraph, she completely turns the tables on the plot she's painted: Friendswood, Texas, changes from a small Southern town where neighbors wave hello, to the site of possible toxic petroleum sludge, where neighbors suffer from cancer and deaths and physical oddities are the norm. The novel is handled with a deftness that's impressive; Steinke possesses a literary style that makes the novel incredibly readable, but also challenging and thought-provoking. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, and their tales of faith and love and passion and environmental advocacy make Friendswood -- both the setting and the novel itself -- incredibly compelling. 

A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin. Thomasville loves Charles Martin. He's a Southern, faith-based writer, and his books fly off our shelves. This week, we're welcoming him to town for the launch of his newest novel, A Life Intercepted, and -- perk of the job alert -- I was able to read a copy before it debuted this week. Martin's fans won't be disappointed. The story covers Martin's typical territory, and it's well-written and easy reading; a bonus? Much of the plot of A Life Intercepted focuses on football, a topic clearly in Martin's realm of expertise -- and one I happen to really enjoy. Snag your signed copy of the book at this week's Shelf Talk and Signing!

Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear. This was our traveling book club's latest selection, and -- oddly -- it was also my only nonfiction pick of the month. Now I See You is self-deprecating and funny, and there'd be nothing unusual about that description, except this is a memoir about going blind. And although Nicole Kear is funny and likable, her story is still heart-breaking; Now I See You won't elicit your pity, though; instead, you'll find yourself laughing and cheering for Nicole as she navigates a world that is rapidly going dark. You want unflinchingly honest? Here's your next read.

See you in the shop,

Annie

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