The Southern Bookseller Review 12/14/21

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of December 14, 2021

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December 14, 2021

SBP: The Fiction Finalists

Fiction Finalists

Last week we spotlighted the Children’s finalists for the 2022 Southern Book Prize. This week, we are taking a look at the finalists in the fiction category. Have you cast your ballot for the best Southern books of the year? VOTE HERE

Here are what some booksellers have to say about the finalists in the Fictin category:

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

When you hit the lottery and not only end up in a posh school and invited to be part of the inner circle of a wealthy family with a home filled with everything you could possibly desire with no repercussions, you lap it up. But does this new life fit you like a glove or your little sisters wet raincoat: slippery, uncomfortable and binding? Charlie will have to find out if the character he built while growing up with his single mom will stick or the new "worry free" lifestyle will prevail. So intoxicating and well written!  – Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

I was not expecting to get sucked into this book so thoroughly, but sure enough I blinked and my Sunday was gone and I had read the entire thing. This is an engrossing mystery that will have you biting your nails and possibly yelling at the characters, or maybe that was just me. Am I a little more paranoid now about leaving my child unattended? Yep. Am I making sure all my blinds are closed in our house? You betcha. Thanks a lot, Joshilyn Jackson, for giving me terrible nightmares. And a terrific day of reading. – Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

In this story that spans five generations of women in Cuba, Texas and Florida, you come away with a rather complex picture of immigration plights and political and social pressures. The recurring theme is a book—an aptly named book— that unites the women in a beautifully written, heart-wrenching story. It reminds us that every woman is created with multiple layers whether she knows it or not. – Easty Lambert-Brown from Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in Tuscaloosa, AL

Razor Blade Tears by S. A. Cosby

a powerful story about two fathers seeking forgiveness within themselves, fighting in vain for the redemption of their sons deaths, and all the while finding friendship and ally-ship in ways they never thought possible. I was fascinated and captivated by all the different intersections of race, class and sexuality. B.A. Cosby did an outstanding job of creating so much more than a fast paced, Jack Reacher style crime novel, he created a beautiful story of friendship in unlikely places and how far a father will go to fight for his son. – Olivia Schaffer from The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

It’s going to take some time to process the powerful, unexpected ending—not to mention the overall effects—of this excellent book. Wiley Cash’s writing is so lovely and mesmerizing, and his main character, Sheriff Winston Barnes, is so calm in the face of catastrophic events, that I felt lulled into a false sense of security that things would be ok…This book combines the intensity of a thriller with the dark beauty of a southern gothic story, and I can’t wait to share it with all kinds of readers.  – Lady Smith from The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, AL

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

There are many reimaginings of Jane Eyre’s classic story on the market, but The Wife Upstairs is one of the most original and captivating of them. Rachel Hawkins brilliantly combined the perspective of Charlotte Brontë’s novel and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Both books are amazing by themselves, but the perspectives are even more eye opening when combined into one thrilling novel. Hawkins’s take on Jane’s story feels relevant and of the time and maintains the entertaining nature of the thriller genre. It’s funny and addictive, keeping you on the edge of your seat. – Karyn Cumming from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman


The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman
Grim Oak Press / November 2021

More Reviews from Cavalier House Books

Antiquity Grey is born into the life of an outcast. “Grey-shamed” by the rulers of her city, and bullied by other members of her community, she is determined to prove her worth. With the help of friends and former enemies, she takes on the greatest threat of all; The Imperium. This was a fast-paced thrill ride through a climate-changed world filled with giant robots and bad guys with swords and laser guns. Myth and tech collide, creating the perfect recipe for a science fantasy adventure.

Reviewed by Sophie Giroir, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer


Kate Baer

Kate Baer’s debut book book of poetry about some of the decidedly unromantic sides of motherhood, What Kind of Woman, rocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list after she posted a couple of poems to Instagram. Her honesty about her raw and even conflicted feelings, expressed in simple yet beautiful and accessible language, touched a chord with readers. "She puts into words what a lot of women won’t say out loud" noted one reviewer.

It also touched a chord with a different note among internet trolls, so it was only a matter of moments before Baer’s Instagram inbox started filling up with rants and hate mail. It was as an early response to these that Baer wrote her first "erasure poem."

"As a writer and a woman on the internet for the last 10 years, I’ve gotten pretty used to deleting or blocking or muting when people send unkind messages. But this one caught my eye." she wrote. Instead of deleting the angry message, she pulled out the interesting words and rearranged them (she was sitting in her minivan). Then she posted the result. Baer said it was just a whim, a way to deal with the hostility directed at her. But once again, her voice resonated with readers. She found complexity and nuance underneath the hostility and bullying. Baer’s new book, I Hope This Finds You Well, reclaims the viciousness directed at turns it into something empowering.

"This new volume speaks to current events, moms, women, and anyone who is just tired of all the negativity in the world." says one bookseller below, "It’s cathartic and inspirational and beautiful."

I Hope This Finds You Well

What booksellers are saying about I Hope This Finds You Well

  • Provocative and of the moment, this collection of erasure poems was a punch in the heart. I loved how Kate Baer took words meant for harm, derision and disrespect and turned them into something powerful and beautiful. I think this set of poetry is an Insightful examination of today’s culture of drive by comments and take downs on social media. Kate Baer’s words push back in the most inspiring way. This book makes the perfect gift to a loved one (or yourself!). ― Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • Poignant, beautiful, and incredibly empowering: Kate Baer’s newest collection of poems is absolutely fantastic. An unforgettable reclamation of power and words through erasure poetry- Baer’s words teach that one can find beauty and purpose in the ugliest and most vitriolic of words and intentions.  ― Mary Louise Callaghan from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Baer’s follow up to the wildly successful What Kind of Woman is even better than the first collection! She has taken comments, emails, feedback, and texts from various spoken interviews and testimonies and turned them inspiring blackout poetry that turns the initial correspondence on its head. This new volume speaks to current events, moms, women, and anyone who is just tired of all the negativity in the world. It’s cathartic and inspirational and beautiful. ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Kate Baer

Kate Baer is a writer and poet based on the East Coast. Her work has regularly been featured on Joanna Goddard’s Cup of Jo, Romper, and Huffington Post. Her debut book, What Kind of Woman, was a #1 New York Times bestseller.

There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt


There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt
Haymarket Books / November 2021

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

H Melt’s poetry collection talks about pivotal moments in trans and queer history and honors those who came before them. Beautiful and touching, this collection shows another side to the struggles trans people continue to face.

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross


Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross
Penguin Workshop / November 2021

More Reviews from Story on the Square

Clementine is a dream warden apprentice to her father until two usurpers show up one day and tear her dreams apart. Now her only concern is getting revenge. But when she finds that the men who stole her role have deeper motives that entangle her father and family, she has to tread more carefully than she ever expected. I absolutely loved Dreams Lie Beneath! This is one of those books that even the minor characters are lively, so much so that I found myself more fascinated with them than the main characters! All in all, this will be perfect for any YA fans of magical mystery.

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Chasing Homer by László Krasznahorkai


Chasing Homer by László Krasznahorkai
New Directions / November 2021

More Reviews from Square Books

Chasing Homer is Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s latest novella, and it is a new turn for the author’s work, and for literature entirely. An unnamed narrator is (possibly) being chased across Europe by people never seen. Every chapter starts off with a QR code for drum music that literally sets the tempo for the barrage of perspective, and pages are often broken up by illustrations of creepy, abstract humanoids. This is a multi-media piece that works like a hand-cranked movie; as always, Krasznahorkai’s writing is innovative and powerful. A must read.

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

New Year by Mei Zihan


New Year by Mei Zihan
Greystone Kids / November 2021

More Reviews from Oxford Exchange

When growing up, it is easy to focus on how far you come and how proud you are of yourself, but it is easy to forget how much your parents may miss you and long for your presence. While growing and building your own families, you inevitably separate a little from your own. This book shows readers what a parent may think while their child is off being a grown up – proud but longing for more time with them. Mei Zihan beautifully tells of Lunar New Year and the toll that the holiday season has on him without his daughter at home. Zihan demonstrates how much he misses his daughter while also respecting her growth and being proud of the woman she has become. Beautifully told and illustrated.

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Greenville, South Carolina

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King


Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
Grove Press / November 2021

More Reviews from Main Street Books

A Fall 2021 Read This Next! Title

I enjoyed every word in these brilliantly-written stories. Each story offered warm and immersive portraits of real, layered characters. Original, literary, human, and peppered with heart wrenching, high-stakes moments that jolt the reader’s emotions in the best way possible. A wonderful collection.

Reviewed by Melissa Summers from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Lincoln Highway The 1619 Project The Anomoly
Originals Stunt Boy

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“A story can always break into pieces while it sits inside a book on a shelf; and, decades after we have read it even twenty times, it can open us up, by cut or caress, to a new truth.”
– Andre Dubus

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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