The Southern Bookseller Review 1/17/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of January 17, 2023

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The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

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The week of January 17, 2023

The journey is as important as the destination.

2023 Southern Book Prize Winner

Deepti Kapoor’s new novel, Age of Vice, appears on the Southern indie bestseller list this week. But it has already received enthusiastic attention of southern booksellers, who chose it at a January Read This Next! title — one of those books they are most excited to put in the hands of customers.

When readers who have voted for The Southern Book Prize are asked to say something about their favorite indie bookstore, the knowledgeable staff and welcoming atmosphere are the two things they talk about most often:

"The staff at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC are knowledgeable and patient with "a book about…….." queries. I always find at least one more book than I’ve gone in to buy because they obviously know their stuff about books, and about customers. Never too busy to help, and attentive in general. They share their love of books!"

"Liberty Book Company in Rock Hill, SC has an unbelievably knowledgeable staff that is eager to help!"

"The owner and staff of The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, VA provide excellent recommendations!"

"With an expertly curated and expansive selection of both fiction and nonfiction, Righton Books on St Simons Island, GA is one of the best in the South"

"Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC brings me so much joy with the large selection of beautiful books and kind people."

"Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC is fantastic. Owner Kathleen is so wonderful, welcoming and knowledgeable."

"Annie B. Jones and her crew at the Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA are wonderful; they provide great gift ideas and really care about providing great customer service!"

Every reader is forever traveling on a journey of discovery towards their next favorite book. But you know what they say about journeys — the destination isn’t as important as how you get there.

"One of my first jobs was in an independent bookstore in Delhi, says Kapoor in an interview, "I learned that you could trust an Indie seller to recommend a book that will be real, surprising, refreshing, different, their choice and suggestion uncorrupted by anything except their own unique mind."

Point-and-click is a hollow experience compared to the feeling you get when someone you trust pushes a book into your hands saying, You’ve got to read this!


Voting gives you a chance to enter a raffle for a collection of SBP finalist books, and there is also a place to give a shout out to your own favorite indie bookstore. SBR passes along what people say to the bookstores. Nothing makes a bookseller’s day like hearing how much their customers appreciate and love their local bookshop.

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Southern Book Prize Finalist!

What’s the best Southern book of the year?

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow


A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
Tordotcom / June 2022

More Reviews from Quail Ridge Books

Southern Book Prize Finalist

I was enthralled with the impeccable voice of Zinnia in the follow-up to A Spindle Splintered. Harrow’s incredible knowledge of fairy tales really shines through in this installment, without removing the reader from the narrative. I’m happy to put my hands on anything Harrow writes — she is a new favorite!


Reviewed by Amber Brown, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen


The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen
Henry Holt and Co. / January 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

Fascinating setting and wonderful characters. This place – where Sweden, Finland, and Russia converge – is defined by the intensely cold climate. The church is converting indigenous Sapmi families, the government is imposing its colonizing laws, and this ensemble cast of characters is wrestling with who they are and how they fit in as change slowly sweeps through. Great writing, wonderful characters, and I learned so much about the cultures and some of the politics of this place during this era.

Reviewed by Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo


Leigh Bardugo, photo credit Christina Guerra

I have never met someone who reads only from one shelf. I don’t think young people read that way and I am always wary of what people may deem “too much” for younger readers because I think they actually have a pretty good barometer of what they can handle and will happily set a book aside when it starts to go places they don’t want to go…I suppose when I’m writing adult, I feel a little freer to take my time with the world and the lore, and to dig more deeply into the grotesque. I also swear more.” ―Leigh Bardugo, Interview, The New York Times

What booksellers are saying about Hell Bent

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
  • Welcome back to the hidden darkness of Yale’s campus, and the magic that soaks its architecture and history. Though society leaders have declared Darlington dead and gone, Alex and Dawes know better – and they will go to any end to save him. Hell Bent is magical, resplendent with fierce characters, a devious and twisting plot, and at its core a deep interrogation of the cost of power and the lengths at which the privileged will go to maintain it.
      ―Jordan April from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • I don’t think I’ve eagerly anticipated a book as much as I have Hell Bent, and let me just say that the wait was worth every. Damn. Minute. Diving back into the world of Galaxy Stern and Lethe felt like being wrapped up in my favorite childhood blanket while also sitting just a bit too close to the fire. Leigh Bardugo somehow managed to create a story that is both intensely dark and strangely comforting and I look forward to devouring every last book in this series.
      ―Kassie Weeks from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Imagine if you will, me opening a window and screaming "DARLINGTON" at the top of my lungs. No that’s not my review, I just needed to make my feelings known. Hell Bent is a bloody, brilliant continuation that forces found family on the most ill fitting of individuals that somehow just work. It’s an exploration of grief, growth, and is somehow sexy despite it all. Rife with tension and lore desperate to be discovered, I can’t help but hope that book three won’t be the end. Now, if you don’t mind, I must get back to screaming out of my window about Darlington.
      ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the creator of the Grishaverse (now a Netflix original series) which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—with more to come. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House (Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Fantasy 2019), which is being developed for television by Amazon Studios. She lives in Los Angeles and is an Associate Fellow of Pauli Murray College at Yale University.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell


The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Knopf / Septembe2 2023

More Reviews from Downtown Books

Lucrezia de Medici has been the least favorite child of the powerful Grand Duke of Tuscany since birth and so has been able to grow up almost in the shadows of the royal court in Florence. At thirteen, she is betrothed to the future Duke of Ferrara- in her dead sister’s place. At fifteen, she is married to him and sent away from the only home she has ever known to a troubled court with her new, and older, husband. She has no allies in this new place save one, her handmaid. Day by day, Lucrezia discovers the cruel nature of her husband; the depth of the problems he faces in his new role as Duke; an utter aloneness since she can’t trust anyone and, superseding all else, the immediate need for her to produce an heir to cement the throne of her new family. It is no surprise this is a New York Times best-seller and a Reese’s Book Club pick- it is a wonderful work of historical fiction, and O’Farrell proves once again she is a master at this genre.

Reviewed by Jamie Anderson, Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin


The Creative Act by Rick Rubin
Penguin Press / January 2023

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

The Creative Act: A Way of Being is a thoughtful exploration of life, how we live, how we think, how we are influence and obviously, how we create. Organized in very readable small chunks- this book is something to appeal to people wanting to shop in the religious section, personal growth as well as arts and music. Profound insights into how we exist are revealed throughout the book wordsmith into attractively consumable bites. By the end of the book, the reader will be inspired and possibly changed forever. This is a book for all ages but also is a book that will be the absolute best graduation gift of 2023.

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Out of Character by Jenna Miller


Out of Character by Jenna Miller
Disney-Hyperion / February 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

What a delightful YA debut! Out of Character is pitched as Julie Murphy meets Ashley Poston — a high bar to meet, but this book reaches and even surpasses that bar! I adored Cass Williams, who is nerdy, fat, and queer, and completely comfortable with all but the first point. Her parents are getting divorced, she has her first girlfriend, and she’s not doing well in school, but her online role-playing community is what keeps her going — except no one in her real life knows about her online friends. I loved seeing Cass’s two lives come together and watching her grow. I can’t wait to see what Jenna Miller writes next!

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

World Made of Glass by Ami Polonsky


World Made of Glass by Ami Polonsky
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / January 2023

More Reviews from Sundog Books

World Made of Glass has the exact range of emotions tweens need and crave – sorrow, love, laughter, tears, regret – in deep swings. And more importantly, this historical fiction novel tells a story that few really know – I didn’t – about the prejudice, misinformation, and rampant fear surrounding AIDS in 1987 – told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Iris. She’s a character who experiences life-shattering circumstances beyond her control – yet with the help of her family and friends, she rises to the occasion. Our youth should read this book because it will build empathy and acceptance of marginalized groups of people, educate a new generation about the AIDS epidemic and LGBTQIA History – an area sorely under-represented in literature and inspire people of all ages to use their voices to fight for justice in their communities. As a bookseller in an indie bookstore who sees firsthand so many young adults purposefully seeking out books that provide a safe place to explore a range of emotions and tackle challenging, complex subjects, I cannot wait for this novel to do just that and find so many readers. Ami Polonsky will inspire the upcoming generation to use their voices for good! 

Reviewed by Michelle Uhlfelder, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix


How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
 Berkley / January 2023

More Reviews from Epilogue Books

An January 2023 Read This Next! Title

Absolutely fucking terrifying. Hendrix does it again in this hilarious yet terrifying novel that combines generational trauma and denial with a not-your-average haunted house. Honestly, I’m unsure if my sibling and I could survive the level of haunting that plagues Louise and Mark; the characters themselves have you questioning whether they will make it to the very end! I had to read this in broad daylight to get through it all. Unique and horrifying, every detail will send goosebumps up your arms and chills down your neck. Not to mention you’ll never look at puppets or squirrels the same way.

Reviewed by Laney Sheehan, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Age of Vice The Song of the Cell Hamnet
The January 6th Report Peekaboo Love

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life.”
– David McCullough Jr

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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