The Southern Bookseller Review 8/22/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of August 22, 2023

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The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

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The week of August 22, 2023

Short Five Star Reviews for September!

Five Star September Books

Booksellers always get an early peak at the books coming out over the next few months. In fact, many of them will tell you getting early access to new books is one of the reasons they became booksellers in the first place! Here are ten books coming out in September that Southern booksellers have given all the stars!

(click on a book title to read more.)

Cornbread & Poppy at the Museum by Matthew Cordell
A new Cornbread & Poppy book is a reason to cheer! A perfect chapter book for our younger readers. –Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, VA

The Imaginary Alphabet by Sylvie Daigneault
Clever wordplay and stunning illustrations make this a fabulous alphabet book. –Rae Ann Parker, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN

Susie King Taylor by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Susie King Taylor’s story is fascinating and is the first in a series chronicling the women whose important lives and work are getting their much deserved moment in the spotlight of history. –Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

Good Women by Halle Hill
Expert short stories from a voice that is unique, engaging, and distinctly southern. –James Harrod, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC

Wellness by Nathan Hill
Nathan Hill is hitting it out of the park again- reminding us of his keen eye for satire, character and the American struggle for happily ever after. –Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL

Enlighten Me (A Graphic Novel) by Minh Lê
A beautiful graphic novel that teaches not only the main character, but also the reader, about the teachings of Buddha and the importance of meditation to achieve a better life experience. –Shannon Rogers, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC

I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams by Tanisia Moore
Filled with images of current day black male heroes and black boy joy, this beautiful picture book is perfect for fans of All Because You Matter. –Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

ZigZag by Julie Paschkis
Reading this book is utter revelry–what a marvelous celebration of the juiciness that language brings to our lips, minds, lives! A feast for the eyes and ears. –Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC

A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid
A haunting story full of magic and heart. I was hooked from the very beginning. I loved falling so completely into the world Ava Reid created. –Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, LA

Starter Villain by John Scalzi
Ridiculous, hilarious fun! Spy cats, unionized dolphins, a secret villain cabal, all the things required for a good time. Scalzi just doesn’t miss. –Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, bookseller, Savannah, GA

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

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck


Shark Heart by Emily Habeck
Marysue Rucci Books / August 2023

More Reviews from Pearl’s Books

Read This Next!

An August 2023 Read This Next! Title

In a debut as profound as it is strange, Emily Habeck explores what happens when a newlywed couple is split apart by a strange mutation–one of them is turning rapidly, limb by fin, into a great white shark. With imagination and heart, Habeck startles the reader awake with the questions we all have living in us: can I survive loss in my life? How do I remain open when I am suffering? What does it mean to learn myself again?

Reviewed by Julia Paganelli Marin, Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

Catriona Ward, photo credit Robert Hollingworth

“I love horror. I think it’s one of the most expressive, most empathetic genres you can work in. Everyone feels afraid at some point in their life. Reading is a sustained act of telepathy or empathy, and reading horror is even more profound than that: it’s asking people to share real vulnerabilities of yours and open themselves up to their own. It is like going down a tunnel, and hopefully the writer is leading the way with a torch, taking the reader’s hand.

I think it’s because of the difficulty of engaging with it, and having to open yourself up to feelings which society dismisses as being quite childlike. Fear isn’t something we’re particularly interested in dissecting; it’s considered a bit schlocky. But when done right, horror is a transformative experience….” ― Catriona Ward, Interview, The Guardian

What booksellers are saying about Looking Glass Sound

Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
  • A coming of age story that takes a very dark turn. Wilder meets Harper and Nathanial when his family is vacationing on the Maine coast. They discover friendship, love and a serial killer, The Dagger Man, that is plaguing the town. Fast-forward to college, where Wilder’s roommate, Sky, encourages him to write a story about his experiences from those times in Maine. Fast-forward many years ahead, and Sky has stolen Wilder’s story and now Wilder is plotting his revenge. This is three books in one and in typical Catriona Ward fashion, you will not know what hit you until the very end!
      ― Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia | Buy from Underground Books

  • I really enjoyed this and was hooked from the beginning. I was totally surprised by the ending and can definitely say it wasn’t like anything else I have read lately.
      ― Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Dare I say this is my favorite yet from Catriona Ward? It’s a story inside a story thriller set on a small coastal town in Maine where a serial killer stalks the townspeople. Teenage Wilder and his summer friends Nat and Harlow form bonds that will last into adulthood – whether they want them to or not. Adult Wilder is an author who is down on his luck and struggling with his final manuscript. As he tries to put his memoirs down on paper, the past won’t set him or his friends free. Haunting , layered, and twisty, this kept me on the edge of my seat until the final reveal.
      ― Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Catriona Ward

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She studied English at the University of Oxford and later earned her master’s degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Ward is a three-time winner of the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel: for The Girl from Rawblood, her debut; Little Eve; and The Last House on Needless Street. Little Eve also won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. Ward is the international bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial.

To Have and to Heist by Sara Desai


To Have and to Heist by Sara Desai
 Berkley / July 2023

More Reviews from Parnassus Books

To Have and to Heist is a wild-ride from start to finish. Think Oceans 11 with serious screwball romantic comedy energy. The plot is complex, but Desai is no novice. A seasoned romance author whose previous works have charmed us for the last few years (The Single’s GameThe Wedding Planner & The Dating Project), Desai is known for lovable, awkward leads caught in the cross hairs of cultural expectations and hi-jinks. Simi, her floundering heroine with zero filter, is instantly lovable. Jack is Simi’s perfect foil; secretive and gruff but also floundering in his own way. Their chemistry is instant. While Simi and Jack’s relationship takes the lead, sizzling with sexual tension, their heist crew provides the perfect goof-ball comedic relief. Would I trust an Uber driver, a hit-man, a nerdy man-child, and an animal loving HIMBO to have my back in a heist? In these circumstances… you bet. Sara Desai brings us the experiences of many young, second generation Indian Americans- pressure to live up to familial expectations, be successful, and, of course, get married. Expertly weaving these experiences into laugh out loud romances. To Have and To Heist is the fun, heart-racing, summer romance adventure that we all deserve.

Reviewed by Katie Garaby, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Strip Tees by Kate Flannery


Strip Tees by Kate Flannery
Henry Holt and Co. / July 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

This was a nostalgic punch to the gut for me as a former American Apparel gal, reminding me of when I wore Lycra and bodysuits to work, had my picture taken every day, then finally snapped, saying I was not a model and quitting, taking the last vestiges of my dignity along with me. I feel seen. More seen than when I was wearing spandex and lamé. This was a validating read for me, but will also be interesting to those who came of age in the 2000s, for every Millennial who cut their teeth on celebrity culture and came away wanting more.

Reviewed by Aimee Keeble, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Bring Me Your Midnight by Rachel Griffin


Bring Me Your Midnight by Rachel Griffin
Sourcebooks Fire / August 2023

More Reviews from E. Shaver, bookseller

This book is stirring, evocative, gorgeous, and compulsively readable! I was drawn in by the strong, clear voice of the heroine from the first page. This book weaves together themes of magic, power, nature, duty, safety, love, wildness, and passion. A beautiful story extremely well told. I can’t wait for the next installment, because I am left with the conviction that Tana’s story has only just begun.

Reviewed by Ruth Goldstein, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Elves Are the Worst! by Alex Willan


Elves Are the Worst! by Alex Willan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers / September 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Super cute picture book for the holidays that is laugh-out-loud funny for kids and their grown-ups. Written in the style of a graphic novel, younger kids will gravitate towards this format that makes them feel like they’re reading a big kid book. Behind all the humor, this book has a great message of appearances aren’t everything.

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

One Smart Cookie by Mika Song


One Smart Cookie by Mika Song
Random House Graphic / August 2023

More Reviews from Square Books

Fortunately, one of the adorable squirrels was learning to read and write. Their futures were bright, and cookies were just a few words away. If only they could think their way into the fortune cookie writer’s block. Darling and silly, this graphic novel is perfect for beginning readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Jilleen Moore, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Decide for Yourself

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

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angelese) by Amy Spalding


The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Sky Horse / April 2018

More Reviews from Park Road Books

The Summer of Jordi Perez is a pitch-perfect summery contemporary romance. I adored the plus-size lesbian blogger main character as she navigates new friendships, anxiety, new relationships, and an internship. With a romance that anyone can get behind, straight or otherwise, this book is perfect for anyone wanting a light, fun read.

Reviewed by Shauna Sinyard, Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store The Underworld Love, Theoretically
Solito The Red Jacket

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
— Terry Pratchett

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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