The Southern Bookseller Review 10/31/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of October 31, 2023

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The week of October 31, 2023

Southern Book Prize Finalists Announced!

2024 Southern Book Prize Celebrating 25 Years of Great Taste in Southern Literature!

The Southern Book Prize celebrates its 25th anniversary with the announcement of the 2024 Southern Book Prize finalists, selected by Southern independent booksellers and representing bookseller favorites from 2023 that are Southern in nature—either about the South or by a Southern writer. Since its inception in 1999, the Southern Book Prize (formerly the SIBA Book Award) has stood as a testament to the love of indie booksellers for great storytelling.

All books nominated for the Southern Book Prize have been submitted by bookseller members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) –the same booksellers who write the reviews found at SBR — and have received enthusiastic reviews from Southern booksellers. The 18 finalists, six in each category, received the highest number of nominations and rave reviews, making these books a collection of the most beloved “handsells” of the year in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s/young adult literature.

The finalists make up the 2024 Southern Book Prize ballot. Voting is open now and will run through February 1, 2024. All readers who love Southern literature and Southern independent bookstores can vote for their favorites, so now is the time to chime in on which books you think deserve to be called the best Southern books of the year!

The 2024 Southern Book Prize Ballot
See the 2024 Southern Book Prize Finalists

While voting is open, SBR will feature reviews of the 2024 finalist books in the newsletter. Read what booksellers have to say about Southern Book Prize Finalists (past and present).

Readers who vote can also enter a raffle to win a set of the finalist titles. Winners in each category will be chosen by popular vote. Southern Book Prize winners will be announced on February 14, Valentine’s Day.

Read This Now | Read This Next | Book Buzz | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Julia by Sandra Newman


Julia by Sandra Newman
Mariner Books / October 2023

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

I have read 1984 more than any other book in my life…maybe 12-15 times. Being overly familiar with the inspiration for this retelling, I was skeptical. From Julia’s perspective, Orwell’s classic is re-framed from a feminist perspective. While Winston Smith is undoubtedly sympathetic in the original as are the other male victims of the Oceania regime, they still possessed the freedoms and advantages of their gender in the classic. Imagining the same world through largely female characters was even more shocking and heartbreaking. Julia is a survivor. She does what is necessary whether it is fitting into or subverting the system. It’s is hard to like her, but even harder not to deeply admire her and hang on her every move. This powerful, uncomfortable book left me feeling much the same. Recommended!

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

Lyndall Clipstone, photo credit the author

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.
― Lyndall Clipstone, Interview, Geeks Out

What booksellers are saying about Unholy Terrors

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone
  • A Monstrous boy and a fierce girl, Clipstone delivers another beautiful YA gothic fantasy. From the moment we first cross through the bone wall with Evie, to traveling through the moorland with Ravel, and facing down the Thousandfold. Clipstone takes us on a journey that feels like a Studio Ghibli film crossed with a horror movie. A gripping family legacy that makes you question everything that happens to Evie, is it fate that Evie and Ravel journey together or is it a curse? A curse that has Haunted Evie since before she was born.
      ― Cass W, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC | Buy from The Country Book Shop

  • Clipstone’s Unholy Terrors takes us to a Wuthering Heights-esque setting, wildly beautiful in its ruin, and drops us off with only the honey and ash prose we fell in love with in her Lake’s Edge duology to guard our hearts and souls against the monsters of truth and generational loyalty that howl in the Thousandfold. A beautiful and haunting read for fans of transforming girls and kissable monsters.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Unholy Terrors is the perfect gothic romance fantasy for all your October spooky season needs. For fans of Crimson Peak and Labyrinth and every dark, haunted thing that deserves to be kissed and killed and brought back again. For the ghastly, and the horrifying, and still beautiful despite it all. Unholy Terrors is perfect, full stop.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Lyndall Clipstone

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She has a bachelors in creative writing and a graduate diploma in library and information management. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.

Absolution by Alice McDermott


Absolution by Alice McDermott
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / October 2023

More Reviews from Thank You Books

There’s so much I could say about this epistolary novel set in 1963 Saigon and confessing to the lives of two American wives in Ho Chí Minh’s Vietnam, but for now, I’ll say: Alice McDermott is (maybe) my favorite living novelist, and Absolution is (maybe) her best novel yet.

Reviewed by Laura Cotten, Thank You Books in Birmingham, Alabama

The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl


The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl
 Spiegel & Grau / October 2023

More Reviews from Wordsworth Books

Read This Next!

In Comfort of Crows, Margaret Renkl has given us a remarkable gift. With keen observations of nature in her backyard, she helps us become better observers in our world. With wise commentary, she gently challenges us to become more caring of the wildlife around us. With beautiful writing, she engages us in an important conversation about conservation. And with stunning illustrations, the book becomes the perfect gift for nature lovers and environmentalists in our lives. It will be one of our top handsells for the holiday season and I can’t wait to put this book in the hands of our customers as a gift for themselves or for the people they love.

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock,, Arkansas

Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel


Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel
Amulet Books / October 2023

More Reviews from Bookmiser

After reading Sleepless in Dubai, you will be itching for a trip to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi! Nikki and Yash have been best friends since birth. But this last summer, their friendship blew up and they’ve been avoiding each other since. Now their families have a trip planned together to Dubai for Diwali and they’re going to have to find some way to get along.

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

The North Wind and the Sun by Philip C. Stead


The North Wind and the Sun by Philip C. Stead
Neal Porter Books / October 2023

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

This beautifully retold fable is a celebration of endurance and compassion and a reminder that gentleness and love (and patience) are more powerful than cruelty and hate (and haste). Stead’s innovative style of illustration evokes a classic with bold lines and quiet colors, and his thoughtful tale-telling is unparalleled. A story both timeless and perfect for these times.

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Curlfriends: New in Town (A Graphic Novel) by Sharee Miller


Curlfriends: New in Town (A Graphic Novel) by Sharee Miller
Little, Brown Ink / October 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Charlie is the new girl at school and making friends has not been easy for her. She wants to make new friends and be cool so she tries to be someone she’s not and makes a mess of things. I love the message in this book to always be your true authentic self and you will find your people. The illustrations are adorable and I love the all black cast. Great read!

Reviewed by Keeshia Jacklitch, Bookseller, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Decide for Yourself

Books that appear on PEN America’s list of challenged books.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayronl


Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Bloomsbury YA / June 2021

More Reviews from Blue Cypress Books

I loved Cinderella is Dead! I love that Kalynn took a fairy tale we all know and turned it on its head, for the better. The whole time I am reading it I’m thinking this is a feminist fairy tale. I’m thinking this is the LGBTQ fairy tale I wish I could have read when growing up and I am so happy young people today will be able to read this story. We need more stories like this.

Reviewed by Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, Louisiana

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Roman Stories Seafood Simple The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play The Lost Library

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own. ”
— John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous

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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