The Southern Bookseller Review 2/28/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 28, 2023

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The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

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The week of February 28, 2023

Read these next!

Read This Next!

SIBA booksellers have had their say! Five new books have been selected for the March Read This Next! list.

Read This Next! highlights new books that are receiving exceptional, and exceptionally enthusiastic, buzz from Southern indie booksellers. Each of the selected books has several enthusiastic cheerleaders among Southern indie booksellers…phrases like "I can’t wait to give this to our customers!" and "Already my favorite book of the year!" are common feedback from booksellers about the chosen books:

What Southern Indie Booksellers have to say:

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud
I devoured this novel! A wonderful cyberpunk mashup of The Martian Chronicles with an edgy western/horror vibe. Anabelle is furious, fearless and my new favorite young heroine.
– Maggie Robe, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow
A compelling mystery that also deftly contends with racism, homophobia, classism and corruption. Charles De’Shawn Winslow’s fluid writing and pacing combine with wonderfully drawn characters–including the glorious busybody Josephine Wright–to make a truly marvelous novel.
–Stephanie Jones-Byrne, Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Perfect for readers who enjoy emotionally tender stories about complicated families. With themes of grief, mental illness, forgiveness, and loyalty, Hello Beautiful is about the cost of being true to oneself regardless of the consequences.
–Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon
Waldon’s best yet! 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.
–Andrea Richardson, Fountain Books in Richmond, VA

Ramen for Everyone by Patricia Tanumihardja, Shiho Pate (Illus.)
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.
–Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

The Spite House by Johnny Compton


The Spite House by Johnny Compton
Tor Nightfire / February 2023

More Reviews from The Haunted Book Shop

Thank you to Johnny Compton for writing such an excellent novel that highlighted an African-American family, but also for explaining what a spite house is. This is an amazing Gothic horror where we have a haunted house situation, the past always seems to catch up to us in the end, and you can feel the spooky ambiance the entire time you are reading! Eric Ross and his two daughters are currently avoiding their past lives and are living out of motel rooms when Eric reads a job listing to stay at a spite house in Texas to try to capture any evidence of supernatural activity. You get MULTIPLE point of views, but it keeps the story moving very well and it is almost seamless. For example, one moment you are reading the POV of the homeowner who is trying to employ Eric and she is finishing up a meeting with a group of ghost hunters and the next chapter is Eric’s POV and it mentions he walks into a meeting room as a group of men are walking out, so it literally picks up where another leaves off. However, there were a few POVs from side characters that I could have done completely without. It was nice to read about the previous tenants of the spite house who had taken the job right before Eric, though. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the twist about why the family is on the run is epic! Eric is a bad dude for staying in that creepy house by himself to try to make a better life for himself and his girls!

Reviewed by Kait Layton, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Vladimir by Julia May Jonasn


Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
Avid Reader Press / January 2023

More Reviews from Copperfish Books

This book exceeded my expectations! The theme surrounds academia and obsession with several interesting pieces about women’s roles in society, power dynamics, and cancel culture. Both thought-provoking and intoxicating, Julia May Jonas captivated me with her vivid and fresh writing style.

Reviewed by Janisie Rodriguez, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill


Kelly Barnhill, photo credit Janna Fabroni


“I think that all books start out with an irritation in our conscious brain, a bit of sand in the old prefrontal cortex, and then become a collaboration between our front brain, which deals in logic and puzzles and language and things making sense, and our mid- and back brain, which both deal with emotion and sense memory and symbol and metaphor. And those collaborations, depending on what other elements we draw into them, can manifest in very different ways.

For both of these stories, I was thinking about abandonment, of the ways in which women are punished for ambition, of the cruel and unexpected ways in which generational trauma follows us and bites at our heels. I was thinking about the ways in which we are failed by our mothers, and fail our mothers, and fail ourselves. And I was thinking about the solidarity of siblings. And from that, two very different stories emerged, both of which come to very different conclusions. What do I think? It doesn’t matter what I think. The only thing that matters is what the story thinks.” ―Kelly Barnhill, Interview Clarksworld

What booksellers are saying about The Crane Husband

The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill
  • This incredibly eerie and strange book follows a young boy whose mother inexplicably brings home a crane, and tells her two sons to refer to him as father. A retelling of a Japanese folk tale, the industrialist hellscape backdrop does very well to solidify what could be an absurd story. Very well written, great for sci-fi, horror, and folk story fans.
      ―Alex Einhorn from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Creepy, melodic, and absolutely haunting, The Crane Husband is a resplendent novella destined to leave you aching. The protagonist, an unnamed fifteen-year-old girl, has to take the responsibility of protecting her family after her artist mother brings home "Father" – a crane who is sometimes a man. Sacrifices abound and love is its central theme, even when it takes wing.
      ―Jordan April from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • A beautifully written retelling of the Crane Wife folktale that focuses on family and sacrifices we make for love.
      ―Kelley Barnes from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books

  • One review of Barnhill’s latest work declared her to be the next Angela Carter, which is a strikingly accurate comparison considering The Crane Husband is a retelling of a traditional Japanese folklore story, centered around the experience of the women involved. Similar to Carter as well, Barnhill leaves us in the world of the mystical and strange, often to an unsettling degree, as we follow a family whose mother has welcomed a crane into their home after the passing of her husband. With deceptively straightforward prose that is guaranteed to keep you turning the page wondering where this bizarre story will turn next, The Crane Husband is an excellent read.
      ― Elizabeth Findley from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books

About Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill is the author of the adult novel When Women Were Dragons and several middle grade novels, including the New York Times bestselling novels The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal, and The Ogress and the Orphans. She is also the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for the SFWA Andre Norton Nebula Award and the PEN America Literary Award. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Forager by Michelle Dowd


Forager by Michelle Dowd
 Algonquin Books / February 2023

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

The subconscious and conscious manipulations of cult mentality have been studied and discussed many times over. These accounts often come from those closest to cult leaders: family members, close confidants, and in this case, grandchildren. Dowd walks us through her childhood, chapter introductions mimicking a guide for living the way she and the Mountain do. (Note: she does specifically state that this book is not intended, nor should it be used, as a guide for foraging). Her connection to nature and its usefulness in her life is evident in how she writes.

Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

What Remains of Elsie Jane by Chelsea Wakelyn


What Remains of Elsie Jane by Chelsea Wakelyn
Rare Machines / February 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

I don’t usually like sad books, and yet this one became a fast favorite! It’s the writing. It’s just so good. Like being a fly on the wall of her mind. Elsey Jane is a widow grieving the loss of her partner who died of drug poisoning. Her actions and thoughts—often bizarre, delusional, and reckless—are sometimes incongruous with the expectations of someone grieving. At other times the agony and suffering and consumption she experiences are completely spot on of what we’d expect. This book is so absurd at times, I laughed, cringed, and tearing up all within minutes. It’s a beautifully written, complicated, intimate story that’s as weird as it is honest—just as grief often is. I highly recommend!

Reviewed by Andrea Jasmin, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

When You Wish Upon a Lantern by Gloria Chao


When You Wish Upon a Lantern by Gloria Chao
Viking Books for Young Readers / February 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is a story about grief, community, family and love. Chao’s writing invites you into a community that is rich in Chinese culture and traditions that you can see, smell, taste and hear. Throughout the story you get to see Kai and Liya grow as individuals and find their way back to each other in the most heartwarming way. This beautiful story is sure to tug on your heartstrings!

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

Beware the Blue Bagoo by Karl Newson


Beware the Blue Bagoo by Karl Newson
Happy Yak / February 2023

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

There’s a lot of rumors about the Blue Bagoo, and a young girl sets out to investigate for herself, discovering along the way that the rumors and conspiracies don’t have any root in facts. In an era where children will be exposed to a lot of misinformation spread by social media (or their friend’s older brother’s best friend’s uncle), this is a great way to introduce them to ascertaining the facts for themselves, to dig beyond the scare tactics, and search the truth out when others hide it with their fear and ignorance. Also, the Blue Bagoo is adorable, the drawings are vibrant, and the words are just fun to read aloud

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest


The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest
 Berkley / February 2023

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

An February 2023 Read This Next! Title

Lily is stuck in a dead-end job as an editor’s assistant, the one Greene sister who hasn’t managed to make a success of her life. On a whim, one day she emails the author of her favorite fantasy book — and he unexpectedly writes back! They correspond regularly, opening up to each other in ways neither of them has before and becoming close, until Strick breaks things off suddenly. Lily is heartbroken…until she meets her hot new neighbor, who figures out pretty quickly that Lily is the Lily from the emails. But he has reasons for keeping his identity secret, so he agrees to help Lily find a date for her sister’s wedding, even though he can’t get her out of his own head. A fun, flirty, bookish romance that will appeal to anyone who’s had fantasies of hitting it off with their favorite author.

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Stone Blind The Lives We Actually Have Code Name Sapphire
Caste Evergreen

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”
– John Waters

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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