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

Betting on You by Lynn Painter

A December Read This Next! Title

Lynn Painter fans rejoice! Betting on You, Painter’s newest YA romcom, is just as swoony and romantic and hilarious as it’s predecessors! Painter masterfully crafts the perfect slow-burn full of page defying chemistry, witty banter, crazy hijinks, and a whole lot of heart! Bailey and Charlie will wiggle their way in readers hearts just as they did each other’s! On top of a stellar romance, Painter also does an excellent job of exploring themes of anxiety, change, and friendship. It’s When Harry Met Sally for a new generation! Plus, all the Taylor Swifts references are definitely a bonus!

Betting on You by Lynn Painter, (List Price: $19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781665921237, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emma Tara, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura

A December Read This Next! Title

This is the romance I’ve been yearning for, one that fills all my needs for a romance novel version of Romancing the Stone, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Indiana Jones. The story features a whip-smart and capable female archeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía who ends up on a dig that could be the find of a lifetime and ends up being forced to finally deal with the one man she hates the most- Dr. Ford Matthews. What could’ve been haunts her, and him too. Unrequited lust/love definitely builds the tension between them to dizzying heights, and makes when they finally give in to their feelings so satisfying.I was surprised by and enjoyed the suspense subplot. Made for a very unexpected and surprising plot twists. The ending itself was ambiguous, but the epilogue more than made up for it! Jo Segura’s debut novel is exciting and a wonderful new addition. I am eager to see what she writes next!

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593547465, December 2023)

Reviewed by Preet Singh, Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander

A December Read This Next! Title

Second Chances in New Port Stephen is the perfect mix of heartwarming holiday charm and queer romance. The author does a wonderful job of acknowledging and addressing so many important topics (like being trans in Florida) while remaining hopeful and lighthearted. I loved that the characters are more mature and older – this is not a YA story. And I loved that we get a second chance story, which fits for the age group and for the holiday themes. The tension and slow-burn is great and readers are rewarded at the end! I won’t give any spoilers, but I loved the ending. The characters made my heart ache, they made me laugh, and they gave me the warm fuzzies that come from knowing there are wonderful, genuine, and kind people in the world. Second Chances in New Port Stephen is full of joy and hope and inclusivity with just a dash of holiday cheer. It’s the perfect queer romance for December!

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander, (List Price: $17.99, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 9781668021965, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

A December Read This Next! Title

Second in Sutanto’s YA series, Didn’t See That Coming focuses on Kiki as she’s forced by her parents to transfer to a top school for her final year. Fortunately, her young friend Eleanor Roosevelt is there, but that seems to be the lone bright spot as she’s bullied by nearly everyone from the principal to her classmates. But Kiki is able to escape into gaming where, because of the massive amounts of abuse, she’s been playing as a male player. But she’s made a great friend in game. However, when she realizes that her friend actually goes to her new school, she must find out who he is. Didn’t See That Coming is both hilarious and heartbreaking while being a fantastic read.

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto, (List Price: $12.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593434048, December 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Airplane Mode by Shahnaz Habib

A December Read This Next! Title

It’s interesting to me that the subtitle of this book describes it as an “irreverent” history of travel, because I found this to be some of the most moving travel writing I’ve read in recent years — it’s funny, witty, sometimes scathing, but it’s also deeply sincere, personal, and imbued with a love of the world and the people who inhabit it. Each chapter is perfectly constructed and packed with gorgeous sentences. I really appreciated the perspective that the author shares in this book; it will change how I think about traveling. I want to push this book into everyone’s hands!

Airplane Mode by Shahnaz Habib, (List Price: $27, Catapult, 9781646220151, December 2023)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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