The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Action & Adventure

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power

In this Greek-inspired fantasy, the adult debut of Wilder Girls author Rory Power, families rule with the power of saints or gods, and siblings find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing war. The world building was very unique and interesting to me, and I would recommend for fans of court politics in their fantasy.

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power, (List Price: $27, Del Rey, 9780593354971, May 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Wild Ride by Keith Calabrese

My absolute favorite thing about this book is that it pulls no punches towards its antagonist, a thinly-veiled caricature of the star of a certain Bo Burnham song, and it is oh so satisfying to see him get the kind of comeuppance we can only dream about on this side of the page. Besides that, this middle-grade adventure through Chicagoland has an endearing set of characters who all learn something about the world being a little bigger and more complicated than they think it is, but not so big and complicated that they can’t handle. I also loved how much fun all the locations throughout the Chicago area were!

Wild Ride by Keith Calabrese, (List Price: $17.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338743241,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Akil Guruparan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

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Christopher Denise

"The illustrations for Knight Owl posed an interesting challenge. Most of the book takes place at night. How could I make the illustrations using a color pallet varied enough so that each scene could have the right feeling and not feel too dark? I took that challenge as an opportunity to dive deep into my fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, specifically the work of Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) one of the greatest artists of the shin-hanga style. Yoshida’s work, along with a few nods to Rembrandt and Vermeer, defined the palette for the entire project. The range of blue tones in Yoshida’s work is amazing! "–Christopher Denise (via School Library Journal Blog)

 

Joan is Okay

What booksellers are saying about Knight Owl

  • An absolutely delightful picture book bursting with wonderfully playful illustrations. As a kid, I loved knights, dragons, and adventure (still do!) and I would have cherished this wonderful book from Denise and spent hours looking at each page. Celebrating perseverance, cleverness, and friendship; Knight Owl is sure to delight readers! ― Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • A night Knight owl who proves he can be brave by outwitting a dragon with pizza. And in doing so shows that even the smallest of creatures can be cunning. ―Judith Lafitte from Octavia Books LLC in New Orleans, LA
    Buy from Octavia Books

  • A sweet picture book about a wise owl, perseverance, and finding common ground with others.   ―Rae Ann Parker from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN
    Buy from Parnassus Books

  • Knight Owl is full of goodness. Who knew dragons and owls made for a good story? And pizza, the great peace maker? Perfect for fans of Gruffalo and Dragons Love Tacos. ―Jilleen Moore from Square Books in Oxford, MS
    Buy from Square Books

About Christopher Denise

Christopher Denise spent much of his childhood in Shannon, Ireland, exploring castles and dreaming of great adventures. He is the illustrator of many critically acclaimed books for young readers, including Anika Aldamuy Denise’s Bunny in the Middle, Alison McGhee’s Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’s Following Grandfather, and Anne Marie Pace’s Groundhug Day, as well as several in Brian Jacques’s award-winning Redwall series. His books have appeared on the Indie Next List and the New York Times bestseller list and in the Society of Illustrators’ Annual Exhibition. Knight Owl marks his author-illustrator debut. Christopher’s current adventures include exploring coastal Rhode Island, where he lives with his family.

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Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. Mandel

Good grief I loved this book. The Glass Hotel makes more sense now, but I already loved it anyway. Nobody does time “travel” like Emily St. John Mandel. She manages not to lose us in the weaving of the timelines and characters. Despite being set in both the past and the future, the themes are so timely. A pandemic, wealth inequity, the idea of home, the role of art in society, family dynamics–it’s all there, plus there are colonies on the moon and maybe we’re all living in a simulation. It might seem like a stretch, but I think her only peer in speculative fiction is Margaret Atwood herself..

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. Mandel, (List Price: $25.00, Knopf, 9780593321447,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

This book was exactly what it needed to be. It’s fun, it takes familiar ideas about kaiju and puts a fresh spin on them, and adds in entertaining characters who care about what they do. It’s so very much an antidote and relief from things taking themselves too seriously, but landed the narrative beats when it needed them. Here, Scalzi show the artistry of solid craftsmanship, and I want more.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Books, 9780765389121,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL

The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman

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.

The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman, (List Price: $28, Grim Oak Press, 9781944145699, November 2021)

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


Another Kind by Trevor Bream

Trevor Bream and Cait May deliver an absolutely delightful story with Another Kind. This novel follows the adventures of six cryptid kids who are trying to find their way to a place they can be their selves and call home. I fell in love with these kids and I was rooting for them every step of the way! The art is beautiful and I cannot wait to order this for the story with its wide release. Not only do we have a beautifully diverse cast, we also have some nonbinary representation with one of the kids realizing that is what they are. Handled delicately and honestly without it taking away from the focus of the story, there’s plenty of moments like this that will charm any reader.


Another Kind by Trevor Bream, (List Price: 22.99, HarperAlley, 9780063043541, October 2021)

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


A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The robot Mosscap is the first to return from from the wilds to ask the question, “What do humans want?” The tea monk, despite their vocation of helping others by listening to problems while serving tea, feels unqualified to answer – and unmoored in their own life. This novella is an inspiring meditation on purpose and meaning set in an interesting world with a great first-contact frame.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, 2021-07-13)

Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

If you like a fast-paced, unapologetically feminist, unabashedly nerdy, deliciously inventive read that sucks you into a fever dream of fun, then you must pick up this book. Author Alix E. Harrow has not only turned the dying girl trope on its head, but also answered the question “What if you Spiderverse’d Grimm’s Fairy Tales?” And the answer is: lot’s of fun, a good dose of mind-being physics, and a dash of fairy tale logic. Taking probably one of the most overlooked fairytales, Sleeping Beauty, and ripping it inside out, tossing it upside down, and creating all new rules in a world that is both high stakes and beautiful, Harrow has created a spell-binding world that you’ll anxiously avoid leaving as you rush towards this perfect novella’s end.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, (List Price: $17.99, Tordotcom, 9781250765352, October 2021)

Reviewed by Christen Thompson, Itinerant Literate Books in North Charleston, South Carolina

Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson

Paige expects to wake up to her parents, younger brother, best friend, and a promising future in basketball. What she doesn’t expect is for that future to be seized from her, as her loved ones, and every other human on Earth for that matter, have mysteriously perished. This is an exhilarating and unpredictable survival story, realistic with an intriguing sci-fi supplement. There are moments of action, moments of sadness, and moments of banter, all brought to life by Carson’s descriptive writing style and genuine characters. I would highly recommend!

Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson, (List Price: $17.99, Greenwillow Books, 9780062691934, October 2021)

Reviewed by Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pamment

Iris and Sam are best friends, but where Sam is content to remain in their small town of Bugden, Iris dreams of traveling for far-flung adventure. But one day the lake runs dry and they discover an abandoned town that had been hidden there. There they find themselves on an adventure they never expected and learn the importance of home. This is a delightful story for any kid who has dreamed of traveling to dig for treasure or setting sail for adventure, and a reminder that some of the best adventures can happen right in your backyard.

Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pamment, (List Price: 12.99, HarperAlley, 9780063065178, September 2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I don’t typically read sci-fi but on a recommendation from a fellow team member on the podcast What Should I Read Next, I read “A Long Way to a Dark Angry Planet”. With this title, I believe that I will read anything Becky Chambers’ writes. This novella was WONDERFUL! It was just what I needed this weekend; engaging but comforting. I cried at the end; it was the release I didn’t know I needed. Al of my friends need to read this because, as the dedication says, it’s “for everyone who needs a break”, and after the year we have had, we all need this break.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, July 2021)

Reviewed by Shannan Malone, The Snail On the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, June 2021)

Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

The Marvelous by Claire Kann

Jewel Van Hanen created a video diary app several years ago called Golden Rule. Since then, she’s held 9 weekend retreats on her estate for a very select few group of users. But a year ago, she dropped out of the public eye. Now she’s back with a new weekend, but this one’s different. It will be a weekend filled with puzzles and games and at the end, two winners will receive a big cash prize. Told through the POV of three of the six competitors, The Marvelous will keep you on your toes with nonstop riddles and action.

The Marvelous by Claire Kann (List Price: $18.99, Swoon Reads, 9781250192691, 6/8/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

You say you want liberty, but you can never be free alone. None of us are free until all of us are. To be free of Bassa requires power– power in service of us all. Not for you to derive joy from controlling a beast.

In Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa introduces readers to a complex and fascinating new world. One with a complex cast system in which power is isolated in the bloated elite, the truth is hidden even from scholars, and anyone who looks different is exiled to the dangerous fringes of the continent. As a secret power from the time of a mad emperor reemerges and a sunken nation reappears, a young scholar and his intended follow two very different paths to save themselves and their people. I was completely entranced by this story. While he pulls no punches, Okungbowa does not need to lean into the grotesque to make his world compelling. I yelled, I cheered, I felt conflicted about my loyalties, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next. Content warnings for harm to children and pregnancy in addition to violent fantasy elements.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (List Price: $16.99, Orbit, 9780316428941, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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