April Books

FICTION

Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes

Julia, Camille and Susan have launched a recent and spontaneous friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. Susan, the most adventurous of the three, entices them into taking a lease on a big, beautiful house in Tuscany. Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, gusto for life, and a fierce determination to thrive. With their new friend, Kit, an American writer, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long forgotten. Women in Sunlight reads like a Nora Ephron movie that no one wants to end.

Swimming Between Worlds, by Elaine Neil Orr 

When Tacker, a football hero who just lost his prestigious engineering job in West Africa, and Kate Monroe, a recent college graduate whose parents just passed away, encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, their stories converge. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of the past as they search for an ennobling future.

Circe, by Madeline Miller 

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world. A daughter born into the house of Helios, Circe discovers she possesses the power of witchcraft. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to an island where she has her own adventures with mortals and mythological figures alike. She must choose the world in which she belongs.

Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø

Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town with low employment and high crime, Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for the criminals. The drug trade is ruled by Hekate, whose illegal cultivation of substances, known as “the brew,” is overseen by her crew, “the sisters.” A master of manipulation, Hekate has connections with the highest in power, and she plans to use them to get her way in this magnificent retelling of the classical Macbeth tale by a masterful modern storyteller.

Varina, by Charles Frazier 

From the best-selling author of Cold Mountain, Varina is a moving portrait of the Civil War and its aftermath told from the point of view of one of its most compelling and enigmatic figures. Inspired by the audacious and adventure-filled life of Varina Howell Davis, the second wife of President Jefferson Davis, Varina is the forcefully rendered, captivating fourth novel from Frazier, who returns to the time and place of his momentous first novel.

The Secret to Southern Charm, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve. Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite at the family beach house, putting her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. Between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

NONFICTION

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class, by Luke Barr 

In a tale replete with scandal and opulence, Luke Barr, author of the New York Times best-selling Provence, 1970, transports readers to the Belle Époque era turn-of-the-century London and Paris to discover how celebrated hotelier César Ritz and famed chef Auguste Escoffier joined forces at the Savoy Hotel to spawn the modern luxury hotel and restaurant, where America’s nouveau riche mingled with British high society, signaling a new social order and the rise of the middle class.

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species, by Carlos Magdalena 

In an impassioned memoir about saving extraordinary plants on the brink of extinction, Magdalena takes readers from the Amazon to the jungles of Mauritius to deep within the Australian Outback in search of the rare and the vulnerable. Back in the lab, he develops groundbreaking techniques for rescuing species from extinction, encouraging them to propagate and thrive once again. Along the way, he offers moving, heartfelt stories about the secrets contained within these incredible organisms.

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table, by Rick Bragg

Enjoy the memories and stories of one of the South’s best writers as he explores his mother’s cooking. Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in “dabs” and “smidgens” and “tads” and “you know, hon, just some.” She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread, “about 15-to-20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven.” Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads, by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, The Girl Who Smiled Beads captures the true costs and aftershocks of war — what is forever lost; what can be repaired; the fragility and importance of memory; the faith that one can learn to love oneself, even with deep scars. Two sisters, refugees of the 1994 Rwandan massacre, travel through seven African countries as refugees, witnessing horrors and kindness. When they are granted asylum in the United States their lives diverge but their bond is unbreakable.

The Truth about Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wild Life, by Lucy Cooke 

Humans have gone to the moon and discovered the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, we’ve still got a long way to go. Whether we’re seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins “holding hands,” it’s hard for us not to project our own values — innocence, fidelity, temperance, hard work — onto animals. So, you’ve probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lie about. They do, and that’s just for starters. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a worldwide journey to meet everyone from a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret and often hilarious habits of the animal kingdom. Charming, and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession and the Natural History Heist of the Century, by Kirk Wallace Johnson 

Waist-high in a river in northern New Mexico, Kirk Wallace Johnson has learned from his fly-fishing guide about the 2009 heist of one of the largest ornithological collections in the world. The 28-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist robbed the Tring museum, full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers, collected more than 150 years ago by contemporaries of Darwin, were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Rist’s obsession: the art of fly tying.  Johnson was catapulted into a worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, The Feather Thief is a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Baby Monkey, Private Eye, by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

He’s a monkey! He’s a baby! He’s a private investigator! Baby Monkey’s adventures come to life in an exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel. With easy-to-read text and elaborate illustrations by Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Selznick, Baby Monkey is just the cutest thing on the shelf. (Ages 6-10)

My Pet Wants a Pet, by Elise Broach

What starts out as a typical story — boy wants a pet — barrel rolls into a comic tale as each pet soon wants a pet of their own. The perfect story for the family pondering pet ownership, My Pet Wants A Pet reveals that, in the end, when you take care of something, that something takes care of you. (Ages 3-6)

Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings

Arfy wants a home. Any home! The beautiful house, the butcher, the fire station. Arfy’s not choosy, so he pens notes to everyone on Butternut Street. Unfortunately, no one can seem to accommodate this sweet, literate pup until, surprise, someone steps up. Just like Arfy, this charming little book will find its way into the hearts of readers young and old. (Age 3-6)

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Jerome is a 12-year-old tragically killed when a police officer mistakes his toy gun for a real weapon. As a ghost, Jerome meets Emmitt Till, another ghost from another time, who helps Jerome understand the devastation unleashed on his family and community. Ghost Boys will haunt the reader long past the final page. Destined to be the novel of the year. (Ages 12 and up)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

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