A seasonal list of the favorite books of Southern indie booksellers, for your reading pleasure!

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

The Wild West meets Mars in this science fiction page-turner! 14-year-old Annabelle Crisp is one of a group of settlers from Earth who’ve formed a colony called New Galveston. The tough, lawless residents are presumably abandoned on Mars, as nobody has heard from Earth in years. The Silence, as they call it, has cut off supplies, news from Earth and, sadly for Annabelle, her mother. Then Silas Bundt and his gang show up to her father’s diner and steal the cylinder with her mother’s voice- her last remaining object of remembrance. Annabell is a feisty protagonist who is on a quest of revenge, travelling across Mars to reclaim the cylinder. She is accompanied by a sketchy group of partners, and an Engine named Watson. Dangers abound in the form of War Engines, ghosts and other settlers who have been taken over by “The Strange.” I enjoyed this page-turner in a genre that I only occasionally read!

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud, (List Price: $27.99, Gallery, Saga Press, 9781534449954, March 2023)

Reviewed by Lisa Uotinen, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

Hello Beautiful is perfect for readers who enjoy emotionally tender stories about complicated families. Quiet and solitary William Waters is an only child raised by emotionally unavailable parents who finds solace in basketball. He meets bright, headstrong Julia Padavano in college where she decides he is the man to help put her on the path towards her diligently planned life. Along with Julia are her three sisters, with whom she is incredibly close. Tragedy strikes, creating a rift that reverberates within the Padavano family for generations. With themes of grief, mental illness, forgiveness, and loyalty, Hello Beautiful is about the cost of being true to oneself regardless of the consequences, and the gift of those who love us for who we truly are. If you enjoyed Ask Again Yes, you will love this one. I cannot wait to recommend this to my customers.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, (List Price: $28, The Dial Press, 9780593243732, March 2023)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Ramen for Everyone by Patricia Tanumihardja

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

From the title and cover alone this book attracted everyone in my friend’s family — they homeschool and we were looking at a stack of kidlit over bubble tea. The verbs-with-images pages reminded me of superhero graphics, but instead of "pow" "bang" "zoom" and the like, dad cooking "steeps" "shreds" "stews", ending up with joy and anime eyes! I love the family in the kitchen story, and that it goes disastrously when Hiro first tries for himself, but knowing what individuals uniquely love allows him to tailor the perfect ramen for each in a way someone out of the household never could.

Ramen for Everyone by Patricia Tanumihardja, (List Price: $18.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781665904353, February 2023)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

Waldon’s best yet! Only Game takes us to the small town of Redford, GA where book editor Jess lives happily with her father in the town where she grew up. She spends her days avoiding the mean girls that tortured her in high school until the death of the town’s eccentric millionaire sends the entire population into a scavenger hunt for his fortune. Everyone is set up in very unlikely pairs and the results of the silly contest go much deeper than winning the money. This book is a delight and I loved every friendship and relationship in it. Waldon creates worlds I want to live in and people I want to hang out with.

The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon, (List Price: $17, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593540800, March 2023)

Reviewed by Lacie Waldon, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

Decent People is a compelling mystery that also deftly contends with racism, homophobia, classism and corruption. De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s fluid writing and pacing combine with wonderfully drawn characters–including the glorious busybody Josephine Wright–to make a truly marvelous novel.

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow, (List Price: $28, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635575323, February 2023)

Reviewed by Stephanie Jones-Byrne, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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