The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

A debut novel set in a tropical paradise, this story looks at race, class, gender, and privilege from many viewpoints. I look forward to reading what comes next from Cherie Jones.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316536981, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Project by Courtney Summers

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Orphaned and betrayed, Lo Denham seeks to uncover the truth about the organization that her sister thinks saved her. However, the closer Lo gets to the Unity Project, the more she struggles to make sense of her own traumatic past. Perfect for fans of dark YA thrillers, The Project is a chilling story sure to leave readers speechless.

The Project by Courtney Summers (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella

This warm, wonderful memoir in essays by Southern writer Elizabeth Passarella comes on the scene just when we need it most. In a series of funny, honest, personal stories, she breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions about Southerners, New Yorkers, Christians, Democrats, parents, and more in a way that will appeal to pretty much everyone, whether you fit into one of those groups or not. In reading about her ice maker, her child’s crib in the closet, her belief in thank-you notes, or her memories of her late father, I bet you’ll absolutely relate to Elizabeth Passarella’s stories about what it really means to find a home in the world.

Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella (List Price: $25.99, Thomas Nelson, 9781400218578, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

I devoured this book like a hungry polar bear with a jar of peanut butter. Gold’s debut is a sweet blend of friendship, conservation, and family. I adored April and her friendship with Bear, how they learned so much from each other. I was especially charmed by him teaching her to reach deep inside herself to roar, and how to put your ear to the earth to really listen. Both things all humans need to spend a little more time perfecting. I bet we’d be kinder to ourselves, each other, and nature if we did. Conservation has a soft spot in my heart and this story is a well-written balance of facing what feels like an unsurmountable problem with global warming and polar bear loss of habitat and giving children agency by listening, seeing a problem, and doing their best to make it right.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold (List Price: $19.99, HarperCollins, 9780063041073, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, Alabama

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee

Instead of the college semester abroad he was anticipating, a suburban New Jersey slacker ends up being hired by a high-octane Chinese entrepreneur who immerses him in the hedonistic lifestyles of Asian billionaires. This is the sixth book by the award-winning Chang-Rae Lee, and his dry wit and keen observations are instantly recognizable.

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9781594634574, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley

I loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn’t get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books, January 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The Truants by Kate Weinburg

Kate Weinberg’s debut novel of suspense weaves a tale of obsession, deception, and misguided love. Jess Walker is a young woman who enters an uninspiring university in East Anglia for the sole purpose of being a student of the charismatic professor of literature, Lorna Clay, who seems to have taken the position under a cloud of suspicion from her past. Clay will be conducting studies on the life and work of Agatha Christie, with an underlying theme, “People disappear when they most want to be seen.”

Jess not only falls under her thrall, but also that of her three new friends who introduce her to a lifestyle of excess and awakenings, with tragic and life-altering consequences.This is a moody, mesmerizing, and literary read.

The Truants by Kate Weinburg (List price: $17.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang

With The Burning God, R.F. Kuang brings her Poppy War trilogy to a thunderously satisfying conclusion. Full scale war and destruction has come to the land of Nikan and Rin must once again rise to the challenge of saving her people without succumbing to her ever growing desires for power and revenge. Not many fantasies truly put a focus on the genocide, loss, and psychological damage that war brings to its victims but Kuang weaves these intricately into her story of godly abilities and conquest; loss and death always come hand in hand with victory. Kuang’s strong eye for character development is once again the shining star of the novel and readers who have been following since book one will have a hard time saying goodbye. A truly great modern fantasy trilogy and one that I look forward to recommending for years to come.

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang (List Price: $26, Harper Voyager, 9780062662620, 11/17/2020)

Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Raffy LOVES cosplay. So, he’s been furiously working on an entry for a local convention with his friend May. But he has several obstacles, not the least of which is an unsupportive mother and his ex, Luca, who has entered with one of their other friends. But Raffy is a natural with a sequin and he’s sure he can pull this one off. This delightful romance-meets-cosplay book from Ryan La Sala is perfect timing for those of us with the blues from missing our favorite conventions this year.

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (List Price: $17.99, Sourcebooks Fire, 9781492682691, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Lyrical prose, a love story too long untold, and exquisitely rendered characters too long ignored make for a haunting debut. The forbidden love story between Isaiah and Samuel pierces every page, their lives reverberating across the plantation, through the ancestors, and history itself. Infused with agony and love and joy and rage, every character’s story within these testaments acts as a spark, a collection of embers that sets fire to historical record and ignites a more complex history of enslavement and the Deep South.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (List Price: $27.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593085684, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

Wild Rain is great historically representative, slow burn romance between a lady rancher and a city slicker reporter. I loved seeing the diversity of the West as it really was, and the chemistry between the two leads sizzled. When can I get more of this series?

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins (List Price: $7.99, Avon, 9780062861719, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger

Simon’s life goal is to be an Animist–someone who can call on beings from the shadow realm adjacent to theirs to do good and keep the peace–but he’s not a very good one. When a town’s request for help goes unanswered by the Animists in charge, Simon decides to take matters into his own hands and sets off to deal with the monster–whom he discovers is actually a girl named Alice who doesn’t remember how she became a monster. Simon and Alice join forces to search out the secrets in Alice’s past, and in so doing find secrets that affect Simon and their whole world. A dark middle-grade fantasy that will appeal to fans of Kelly Barnhill, about identity and finding your self worth.

Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger (List Price: $16, HarperCollins, 9780062934796, February, 2021)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Don’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison, Daniel Wiseman (Illus.)

This is such a cool book!!! It explains body autonomy perfectly for very young children. Not only that, but it does so in a way that would make kids like Doug feel less alone about their preferences. Will definitely be recommending!

Don’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison, Daniel Wiseman (Illus.) (List Price: $16.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781984813022, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Ellen Linville, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman

Take Pride and Prejudice and set it in the mid 80s at a high school in Texas and you’ve got Pudge and Prejudice. Elyse and Jayne Nebbit have moved to Texas with their parents and three younger sisters. Their new school is obsessed with football and their star quarterback, Billy Fitz. And Elyse finds herself a little obsessed with Billy herself. We’ve all read retellings where the changes are obnoxious and make the story too far in tone and theme from the original. I’m glad to say that one is true to the original, while still updating it for 1980s Texas. This was a sweet, fun story about teens, but which works well for preteens as well.

Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman (List Price: $15.99, Wander, 9781496442833, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

Love and Other Lies by Ben McPherson

At the beginning, Love and Other Lies was a fast paced typical thriller to read. One which centered on a horrific event–the mass killing at a summer camp for teens, and the disappearance of one of the young campers. It was about the relationship between husband and wife, the love they still have for each other after 15 years of marriage and the lies they might be telling, and about their relationships with their teen daughters. Then you begin to realize what might have really happened and it suddenly becomes an extremely thought-provoking and unnerving story that could have easily been taken from true events. It shows the horrors that can occur with the rise of white supremacy, and how normal people with the best values can be infected by political ideology.

Love and Other Lies is not a feel good story by any means, but it is an important story with lots and lots of topics to discuss and a story that is definitely pertinent to the times in which we live. This is a book that you will think about for a long time after you put it down.

Love and Other Lies by Ben McPherson (List Price: $16.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062406149, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

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