The indie scene is riddled with beautiful book picks for all your summer reading needs. If you or your book club are looking speculative fiction that will rock your reality, historical fiction that will take you to another time or unbridled mysteries that will bring you to the brink, this is a list that is guaranteed to shake up your TBR pile.
The Night Flowers by Sara Herchenroether (5/2)
In 1983, three bodies are found in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, one woman and two children. Their murders were never solved. Thirty years later, a librarian and a detective are determined to work the cold cases. The pair make an unlikely duo, and with only fragments of the original case file and a witness who doesn’t want to remember—they’re determined to learn the truth behind the murders.
American Arcadia by Laura Scalzo (5/2)
It’s 1985 in New York City, and the Twin Towers buzz with money, the clubs’ pulse with music and bodies, and Sicilian grandmothers tell tales of mermaids in New York Harbor. Mina Berg is a young Wall Streeter, while her roommate, Chry Risk, wants to play the bass like Jaco Pastorius, and the two strike up a friendship with the unpredictable Danny Nyro and laid-back Dare Fiore. They are all young in New York and want to rewrite their origin stories as they find themselves mixed up in love and friendship, life and death.
Human Sacrifices by María Fernanda Ampuero, Trans. by Frances Riddle (5/16)
The world is hostile, corruption and rot are at its center, and people are ruled by the capitalist economy, where women and children are the weakest links. In twelve stories, from an undocumented woman who answers a job posting and winds up a hostage to a group of outcasts who obsesses over boys who drown while surfing and an unhappy couple who find themselves trapped in a maze, the nature of society and its tendency toward exploitation and abuse is illuminated.
Notes on Her Color by Jennifer Neal (5/23)
Everything in Gabrielle’s house is bleached white. From the kitchen cabinets to the spices she cooks with to Gabrielle herself. She inherited the ability to change the color of her skin from her mother, Tallulah, and is told to make her skin white to not anger her father. As she pursues piano lessons with a strong, self-assured teacher, Gabrielle begins to see how love and a firm sense of self can be healing, world-changing acts.
The Belonger by Mary Kathleen Mehuron (6/6)
Holly Walker is an innkeeper on a Caribbean island. As she braces for the monster hurricane heading toward the island, she has to deal with Lord Anthony Bascombe, a man who likes to justify his bad behavior with his pirate ancestry. It all takes a turn for the worse when Holly’s son, Byron, and his father go missing. As the storm hits, Holly’s past is brought to the surface, and the storm brings new revelations that will change her life and the island forever.
Walking on Fire by Kathryn Crawley (6/6)
Love or safety, Kate must choose. After a failed marriage and deciding to leave her home state of Texas, Kate accepts a job as a speech therapist for children with cerebral palsy, and finds herself in Thessaloniki, Greece. But it’s 1974, the country just ended a seven year dictatorship and an anti-American sentiment is carried over. As she becomes more embedded in the culture, Kate falls in love with Thanasis, a man who will challenge her heart and her stability in the face of political upheaval and Kate’s journey to find where she belongs.
The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller (6/6)
In a world faced with a deadly pandemic, Neffy, a former marine biologist, joins the trial for a vaccine that is the world’s last hope for a cure. She and the other trial participants watch from their hospital window as society falls apart, while they grapple with the difficult lives that brought them to this moment. Among her companions is a man who developed technology to revisit memories. As Neffy awaits the results of the trial, she faces down her own past and tries to come to terms with what the future might hold for her.
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Trans by Tiffany Tsao (6/6)
In this collection of twelve short stories, debut author Norman Erikson Pasaribu explores the world through the lens of nearly happy lives. Using speculative fiction and playing with religion, Pasaribu connects to the melancholy way we survive. This absurdist take on rather cerebral themes takes readers through the queer experience with wisdom and humor.
The Garden of Second Chances by Mona Alvarado Frazier (6/6)
Juana is faced with immeasurable odds when she is wrongfully accused of her husband’s murder. Sent to prison as an undocumented, seventeen-year-old mother, her only solace is in her baby. But when her husband’s family threatens to take her child too, Juana must face the bitter reality of prison and the void of feeling all alone and voiceless. Seeking peace in a small garden within the prison yard, Juana comes to terms with her circumstances while reflecting on her past in this heart-wrenching story of survival.
Wild with All Regrets by Emma Deards (6/13)
In the aftermath of WWI, Lucas is haunted by the death of his friend Jamie. Literally. The specter follows him demanding answers about how he died and why. As everyone around Lucas tries to help him move on, he must confront his past and heal old wounds in order to find himself again.
When the Hibiscus Falls by M. Evelina Galang (6/13)
In this collection of interwoven Filipino and Filipino American stories, the veil is lifted on the lives and legends of a history that spans time and continents. Filled with reality and myth, these stories journey from Philippine villages to near future-Florida to explore and celebrate the loss that comes when a former generation dies and the gift of being able to carry their legacy forward.
Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace by Tracey Buchanan (6/20)
Mrs. Minerva Place has had more than enough of the people living in her small Kentucky town in 1952. The widow starts to believe she may be truly going crazy when, in addition to the local residents, she begins to be pestered by the dead lurking in the nearby cemetery. Despite herself, she forms a relationship with a young boy and his father until tragedy strikes. As Minerva navigates the pain of letting people in she also has to confront all the ways forgiveness can clear her of the things that haunt us all.
The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos by Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya (7/11)
Gregorio is recovering from a soccer injury, but that is the least of his problems. His parents are divorcing, he cost his team the big game and his sister isn’t speaking to the family. As a graduation gift, his uncle takes him to Colombia where he is reunited with friends and confronted with the realities of colonization. Changed by the experience, Gregorio returns to the U.S. where he confronts the anti-immigrant sentiment and his own reality.
All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky (7/11)
A young woman follows her sister into the drug-fueled underworld of LA misfits. Debbie has always created chaos wherever she goes, but her sister is more wrapped up in it than ever when Debbie disappears. The unnamed narrator then takes a job in an emergency room, while stealing pills on the side. Suddenly swept up in an electric sexual and spiritual relationship with Sasha, who claims to be psychic, our heroine must confront her estranged sister and her own choices in this LA-set fever dream of a story.
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith (7/25)
Isabel is far from where she wants to be. She currently spends her days in a Portland, Oregon library repairing books and pining over a co-worker who doesn’t feel the same. She dreams of going to Amsterdam, though she’s never been. One party might change it all and as she tries to find the perfect vintage dress, her life is captured in the small tokens of her daily interactions.
The Brill Pill by Akemi Brodsky (8/15)
In the near future, all organs are capable of being reproduced in the lab, including the brain. The procedure, however, has proven to be far from perfect. Patients suffer motor function issues as well as mental inflictions like sociopathy. William Dalal is at the forefront of trying to help the patients whose lives he’s saved. But should they have been saved? Has he created monsters? As he tries to redeem them he faces the more complicated question of whether or not he can redeem himself.
LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO by Cleo Qian (8/15)
In this speculative collection of stories, debut author Cleo Qian explores the lives of Asian and Asian American women as they confront a technology-riddled reality. From dating simulations to supernatural karaoke machines, these stories shatter stereotypes and awaken vibrant, queer conversation through a glaring critique of our screen-filled society.
In the Lobby of the Dream Hotel by Genevieve Plunkett (8/15)
Musician and mother, Portia has developed feelings for her drummer Theo. Her husband, a determined prosecutor, uses her bipolar diagnosis and knowledge of her past to corner her into psychiatric treatment. Steeped in a heart-wrenching view of mental health as well as a complicated story of love, Portia’s journey through medication and memory unravel truths about her marriage, her relationship with Theo and herself.
The Stockwell Letters by Jacqueline Friedland (8/29)
Ann is a passionate activist and abolitionist living in the antebellum South. When she is stricken with illness at twenty-four, her husband forbids her from engaging in activists events. However, when the fugitive slave Anthony Burns is caught in Boston, she knows she must do something. Facing the hurdles of 19th century life and attempting to do good in a world wrought with hurdles, Ann must find her place in the eradication of slavery while overcoming her own obstacles as a woman in the 1800s.
One Friday in Napa by Jennifer Hamm (8/29)
Vene and her mother Olivia have never gotten along. A cold woman with nothing but critique for her daughter, Olivia is now dying. Still as harsh as ever, Vene’s attempts to reconcile and mend her relationship seem nearly impossible until she stumbles on her mother’s old cookbook. The vibrant young woman doesn’t match the angry old one before her and as Vene dives deeper into who her mother was, she hopes to find a person she can appreciate before it’s too late.
Dearborn by Ghassan Zeineddine (9/5)
Spanning generations of the Arab American community living in Dearborn, Michigan, this collection of stories is a razor sharp look into identity, migration and inherited trauma. From stuffing money into frozen chickens to avoid the IRS to a speedo-clad mystery man garnering images of Lebanon, these tales are at times hilarious, but also heartening as they explores the complex and colorful lives of a range of characters.
Wound by Oksana Vasyakina, Trans. by Elina Alter (9/5)
Oksana is traveling from Moscow to Siberia to bury her mother’s ashes. A lesbian poet, she carefully documents her journey while also remembering her past and sharing her artistic and sexual awakening. Exploring themes of death, love and queerness, Oksana puts her vibrant eye on the relationship with her mother, modern-day Russia, sexuality and identity.
The Devil of the Provinces by Juan Cárdenas, Trans by Lizzie Davis (9/12)
They say you can never go home, and perhaps that’s more of a warning than a saying. When a biologist returns to Colombia to live with his grieving mother, he’s confronted with more than just family tragedy. In the wake of his brother’s murder, he must also deal with the boarding school where girls are birthing strange creatures, his past love and a new job that casts him into a world of conspiracy. Combatting being back where he never intended to return, the biologist now must deal with the world not being quite as it seems.
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