Feature: Must Reads of the Summer 2019

By shelfmedia Feature No Comments on Feature: Must Reads of the Summer 2019

HOME REMEDIES: STORIES 

By Xuan Juliana Wang   

   The twelve stories in Xuan Juliana Wang’s remarkable debut collection capture the unheard voices of a new generation of Chinese youth. A generation for whom the Cultural Revolution is a distant memory, WeChat is king, and life glitters with the possibility of love, travel, technology, and, above all, new identities.

THE PAPER WASP 

By Lauren Acampora   

In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.  

Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

By Jean Kwok   

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes. Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love. But what happened to Sylvie?

HOT COMB 

By Ebony Flowers 

Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into black women’s lives and coming-of-age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn. The titular “Hot Comb” is about a young girl’s first perm- a doomed ploy to look cool and stop seeming “too white” in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved into. In “Virgin Hair,” taunts of “tender-headed” sting as much as the perm itself. “My Lil Sister Lena” shows the stress of being the only black player on a white softball team. Lena’s hair is the team curio, an object to be touched, a subject to be discussed and debated at the will of her teammates, leading Lena to develop an anxiety disorder of pulling her own hair out.

Throughout Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers re-creates classic magazine ads idealizing women’s need for hair relaxers and products. “Change your hair form to fit your life form” and “Kinks and Koils Forever” call customers from the page. 

BTTM FDRS

By Ezra Claytan Daniels   

Once a thriving working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer named Darla and her image-obsessed friend, Cynthia, descend upon the neighborhood in search of cheap rent, they soon discover something far more seductive and sinister lurking behind the walls of their new home.

Like a cross between Jordan Peele’s Get Out and John Carpenter’s The Thing, Daniels and Passmore’s BTTM FDRS (pronounced “bottomfeeders”) offers a vision of horror that is gross and gory in all the right ways. At times funny, scary, and thought provoking, it unflinchingly confronts the monsters- both metaphoric and real- that are displacing cultures in urban neighborhoods today.

Vintage 1954

By Antoine Laurain

When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties. The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows. But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence…

THE OCTOBER MAN  

By Ben Aaronovitch   

If you thought magic was confined to one country—think again. Trier: famous for wine, Romans and being Germany’s oldest city. When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. Enter Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural. His aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. Together with frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he quickly links the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men whose novel approach to their mid-life crisis may have reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. And to solve the case they’ll have to unearth the secret magical history of a city that goes back two thousand years. Presuming that history doesn’t kill them first. 

Aurora Rising

By Amie Kaufman   

The year is 2380,

and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch. 

The Cuban Comedy

By Pablo Medina 

A love story steeped in political satire, poetry, and the lightest touches of magical realism, Medina has created a bold, funny narrative with an uncanny heroine at its core: Elena of Piedra Negra, Cuba. 

Piedra Negra is an isolated village, whose citizens consist mainly of soldiers injured in the revolution who pass the time drinking a firewater so intense, all hallucinate, and most never recover. The firewater distiller’s daughter Elena longs to be a poet, and after a chance encounter with Daniel Arcilla, Cuba’s most important poet, Elena wins a national poetry prize and leaves Piedra Negra behind for Havana. 

There she encounters a population adjusting to a new way of life, post-revolution: there are spies and secret meetings, black marketeers, and censorship. Full of outlandish humor and insights into an often contradictory and kafkaesque regime, Medina brings 1960s Cuba to life through the eyes of Elena.

If the Ice Had Held

By Wendy Fox   

Melanie Henderson’s life is a lie. The scandal of her birth and the identity of her true parents is kept from her family’s small, conservative Colorado town. Not even she knows the truth: that her birth mother was just 14 and unmarried to her father, a local boy who drowned when he tried to take a shortcut across an icy river. Thirty-five years later, in Denver, Melanie dabbles in affairs with married men while clinging to a corporate job that gives her life order even as her tenuous relationships fall apart. She still hasn’t learned that the woman who raised her is actually her aunt—or that her birth mother visits her almost every day. This fiercely-guarded secret bonds the two most important women in her life, who hatched a plan to trade places and give Melanie a life unmarred by shame. Yet, as a forest fire rages through the Rocky Mountains and a car accident shakes the family, Melanie finds herself at the center of an unraveling tangle of tragedy and heartbreak.

LEONARD AND HUNGRY PAUL

By Ronan Hession 

The story of two friends who ordinarily would remain uncelebrated. It finds a value and specialness in them that is not immediately apparent and prompts the idea that maybe we could learn from the people that we overlook in life. Leonard and Hungry Paul change the world differently to the rest of us: we try and change it by effort and force; they change it by discovering the small things they can do well and offering them to others.

You Who Enter Here

By Erika T. Wurth

Matthew has grown up in hell. His father is gone, and his mother drinks and hooks up with men who abuse Matthew and his sister. He finally decides to hit the streets of Farmington to get away and to drink himself to death, in his mind, his destiny. He meets Chris, who saves him, takes him home, cleans him up, gets him sober, and initiates Matthew into one of Albuquerque’s Native American gangs, the 505s. They now sell heroin, and it’s their subservience to the Mexican gangs that has allowed them to survive. However, Chris decides that his little Native American gang deserves to be as big as the Mexican gangs in Albuquerque, bringing in new business from Indigenous communities in Mexico. Then, Matthew falls in love with Chris’s girlfriend. Matthew’s story is one of terrible darkness, but also, unexpected beauty and tenderness.

Joy: And 52 Other Very Short Stories

By Erin McGraw  

In these very short stories, narrators step out of themselves to explain their lives to us, sometimes defensively, sometimes regretfully, other times deceitfully. Voices include those of the impulsive first-time murderer, the depressed pet sitter, the assistant of Patsy Cline, the anxiety-riddled new mother, the aged rock-and-roller, the girlfriend of your husband—human beings often (incredibly) unaware of the turning points staring them in the face.

The Atlantis World

By A.G. Riddle 

A mysterious signal from deep space could be humanity’s last chance of survival. And reveal the ultimate secret of our origins.

Northern Morocco: Dr. Kate Warner cured a global pandemic, and she thought she could cure herself. She was wrong. And she was wrong about the scope of the Atlantis conspiracy. Humanity faces a new threat, an enemy beyond imagination. With her own time running out and the utter collapse of human civilization looming, a new hope arrives: a coded message from a potential ally.

With Dorian in pursuit, Kate, David, and their team race through the ruins of the Atlantean ship left on Earth, across Atlantean science stations throughout the galaxy, and into the past of a mysterious culture whose secrets could save humanity in its darkest hour. With their own lives on the line and time slipping away, Kate, David, and Dorian are put to the ultimate test.

Her Sister’s Shoes

By Ashley Farley 

Her Sister’s Shoes is the story of three sisters—Samantha, Jackie, and Faith—who struggle to balance the demands of career and family while remaining true to themselves. Samantha Sweeney has always been the glue that holds her family together, their go-to girl for love and support. When an ATV accident leaves her teenage son in a wheelchair, she loses her carefully constructed self-control In the after-gloom of her dreaded fiftieth birthday and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, Jackie realizes she must reconnect with her former self to find the happiness she needs to move forward.

Faith lacks the courage to stand up to her abusive husband. She turns to her sisters for help, placing all their lives at risk. In the midst of their individual challenges, the Sweeney sisters must cope with their mother’s mental decline. Is Lovie in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or is her odd behavior normal for a woman her age? No one, including Lovie, understands her obsession with a rusty key she wears around her neck.

Ten Days In Paradise 

By Linda Abbott

Vacationing on beautiful Sanibel Island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Ellen Bennett has never felt so guilty—or more alive.

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to turn out. The 45-year-old successful career woman, wife and mother traveled to the island paradise for solitude and a much-needed break from her family. But a chance encounter with a fellow traveler sparks a powerful attraction, forcing Ellen to make a decision that could change her life forever. A compelling and heartfelt novel, Ten Days in Paradise masterfully explores the inner landscapes of marriage and family relationships. 

Mind Machines 

By Dima Zales 

With billions in the bank and my own venture capital firm, I’m living the American dream. My only problem? A car accident that leaves my mother with memory problems.

Brainocytes, a new technology that can transform our brains, could be the answer to all of my problems—but I’m not the only one who sees its potential. Plunged into a criminal underworld darker than anything I could’ve imagined, my life-saving technology might be the death of me. My name is Mike Cohen, and this is how I became more than human.

The Last Everything 

By Frank Kennedy 

An edge-of-your-seat thrill ride across the multiverse begins in the dead-end town of Albion, Alabama, where 17-year-old Jamie Sheridan is suffocating. Grief over his parents’ demise and his brother’s descent into the bottle leads Jamie to seek a way out. Yet the night he tries to escape, the final countdown on his life begins. 

In a matter of minutes, one of his mentors is killed, and people he trusted – neighbors, peers, even his English teacher – are coming after him, heavily armed. Jamie flees into the night, desperate and seeking hope from the two friends he believes he can count on – Samantha and Michael. Yet they become targets as well, for the stakes are too high, the clock ticking too fast.  



  • Share:

Leave a comment