The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Meet Frankie and Ezra. They’re about to ‘Party Like It’s 1999,’ if they can remember what happened during the last 24 hours. Find out what happens when you mix exes at a wedding, throw in a little college shenanigans, and stir up a decade-old hatred. Filled with ’90s nostalgia (including dial-up, pay phones, the start of Google, and, yes, online dating), you won’t put this down simply because you’ll want to know what exactly Frankie and Ezra did that night. If you’re looking for a light romance to bring in 2023, here it is! (Only thing missing: A curated list of songs mentioned in the book.)

The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593546536, November 2022)

Reviewed by Jenny Gilroy, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Olafdottir takes us to Iceland a few days before Christmas where a midwife, Domhildur, has just delivered her 1,922nd baby. She comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and her father’s family work as undertakers. Her family deals with beginnings and endings, life and death, and sunlight and darkness. “I have come to the conclusion that the one who calls himself the master of all creatures is in fact the most vulnerable of all animals…the most fragile of the fragile on the planet.” These words, written by Domhildur’s great-aunt, are discovered in some manuscripts left in a closet after her death. Domhildur reads her great-aunt’s reflections on humans, life, and loves, while a storm is moving into Reykjavik. Will the prediction in these pages come to be reality? Will mankind be “the most short-lived species on earth”?

Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (List Price: $17, Grove Press, Black Cat, 9780802160164, December 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Spotlight on: The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

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I think that re-wilding is an extraordinary thing, desirable perhaps, to see nature reclaiming itself. Southern Florida was and would like to be a swamp, you know? And yet we’ve dredged it and drained it and built on top of that. And so much of city management in a place like Miami is trying to keep that boundary between what the landscape wants to do and what the city wants the land to do – bridge it. And so to me, the idea of softening that boundary and trying to be a little harmonious is a good thing.” ―Lily Brooks-Dalton, Interview, Texas Public Radio

 

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

What booksellers are saying about The Light Pirate

  • Wanda is born in the middle of a devastating hurricane that claims two of her family members and frays the edges of a fragile environment. Set in Florida, we see Wanda grow into a young adult while the only place she has ever known as home becomes a victim of climate change. Brooks-Dalton shows us the crumbling of civilization and the strength of one person’s determination to find beauty in the loss. Wanda’s story asks us to see both magic and hope in an uncertain future.
      ―Mary Jane Michels from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Ethereal and haunting, The Light Pirate tells the story of Wanda, who is born on the day that the hurricane that she was named after rips through Florida, leaving devastation in its wake. A meditation of what’s to become of our landscape and livelihood, and how we survive when everything is stripped away. I can’t wait to recommend The Light Pirate to fans of Emily St John Mandel, Lydia Millet, and Climate Fiction readers.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • An essential read, especially for those of us making our home in Florida. Tragic but hopeful and completely enthralling. highly recommends.
      ―Emily Berg from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL | Buy from Books and Books

  • In a novel that mirrors the latest news about the urgency of our environment, Lily Brooks-Dalton takes the reader to a terrible end place. Kirby Lowe and his heavily pregnant wife and two sons are about to be hit by another hurricane in their small town in Florida. Wanda is born into this weather crisis, and we watch her whole life as weather patterns and rising sea levels take away the life we all have known. Bioluminescence plays a part as large as Phyllis—the survivalist who finds she was right all along. This novel will leave the reader breathless, turning pages while hoping life and love will survive.
      ―Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Lily Brooks-Dalton

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, Good Morning, Midnight (Random House, 2016), has been translated into 17 languages and is the inspiration for the film adaptation, The Midnight Sky. Her memoir, Motorcycles I’ve Loved (Riverhead, 2014), was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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The Midwife’s Secret by Emily Gunnis

A wonderfully written book with an original idea. Weaving together 3 main storylines- you get into the intricacies of what an impact made long ago can do to a family, and what it can do to generations of a small town. The mirroring of the disappearances almost 60 years apart really sold me on the story. A great page-turner for those that love small-town hidden secrets set in the UK.

The Midwife’s Secret by Emily Gunnis (List Price: $12.99, Headline, 9781472272058, December 2022)

Reviewed by Olivia Meletes-Morris, Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island , South Carolina

Hemlock Hollow by Culley Holderfield

Culley Holderfield writes poetically about the magical mountain hollow where we meet Caroline Mc Alister as she mourns her father and her marriage. A college professor, Caroline has just discovered that her deceased father has bequeathed her the family cabin—the cabin which has always haunted her. While restoring the old cabin she finds a century-old journal written by Carson Quinn and the mystery it reveals about the death of his brother haunts her too. This novel has so many facets: Leprechauns and Emerson and Darwin and Socrates and religion and love and death are all found in its pages. The main character is an archaeoastronomy professor and is studying the Grand Octal! This is the most fascinating novel I have read all year and is perfect for a bookclub discussion. I can’t recommend it highly enough as a page-turner that will stay with and haunt the reader.

Hemlock Hollow by Culley Holderfield (List Price: $18.95, Regal House Publishing, 9781646032860, December 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

What happens when nature isn’t natural? When in the end, Climate Change is unstoppable? Lily Brooks-Dalton renders a shockingly real depiction of this possibility in the harrowing and beautiful novel, The Light Pirate. Florida’s struggle with the aftermath of violent weather has always been a reality, but in this story, the rapidly changing landscape overwhelms the will and stamina of most human beings. Wanda, who was born during, and named after, a particularly vicious hurricane, frequently navigates a new, storm-carved home as the Florida coast shifts and neighborhoods are swallowed by wind, water, and human dereliction. Wanda adapts as nature does, to a strange new world–one dependent not on human infrastructure–but on that which matters most in the end: humility, kindness and bravery. This story is important. This story could happen. This story is happening. A must-read.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538708279, December 2022)

Reviewed by Laura Simcox, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

My Darkest Prayer by S. A. Cosby

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

In this novel, readers are introduced to a story where religion, region, karma, and race intersect. Nathan, (former marine and ex-cop) has experienced loss of his own, and he’s dealt his own hand of karma to others. So, when the local sheriff’s office doubles down on corruption, he takes the case of a local minister’s death into his own hands in an attempt to bring peace to the congregation. This novel is full of twists and turns that will leave your jaw on the floor. This novel dissects the weight of loss on a person’s moral compass. In this small Virginia community is where the darkest secrets are revealed–where the darkest prayers are heard. S.A. Cosby is a force to be reckoned with.

My Darkest Prayer by S. A. Cosby (List Price: $16.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250867636, December 2022)

Reviewed by Leo Coffey, Union Ave. Books in Knoxville, Tennessee

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

I have never really felt like the target reader for Cormac McCarthy, but this one really spoke to me. Alternating perspectives between two siblings in the past and present, The Passenger is the story of Bobby Western, a deep sea diver overcome with grief by the death of his sister whom he carried romantic feelings for. Many chapters flesh out in a very dialogue-heavy interview style with an eccentric cast of characters, some more likable than others. Experts in quantum mechanics such as Dirac, Einstein, and Oppenheimer (who worked alongside Western’s father) take on roles as symbols, legacies, and even characters unto themselves. All the while, Western gets wrapped up in a conspiracy he doesn’t know the questions to let alone the answers. McCarthy writes beautifully of the alchemic fires of devotion and the beyond, and I suspect this is a novel I will be returning to throughout my life.

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy (List Price: $30.00, Knopf, 9780307268990, October 2022)

Reviewed by Amanda Depperschmidt, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

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I started this book in Argentina many years ago, knowing I would move to Europe soon, and finished it during my first couple of years living in Berlin. So for me it works as a bridge between two very different worlds and lives. I couldn’t see that during the writing process, but these stories are full of moving boxes, abandoned clothes, lost objects, people feeling nostalgic and lost or out of place, even when the plots have little to do with that. How tricky fiction can be…I thought I had hidden my private life behind these stories, but it doesn’t matter what I am writing about, I’m always working with material taken from my own life and experience.” ―Samanta Schweblin, Interview, Words Without Borders, National Book Awards

 

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

What booksellers are saying about Seven Empty Houses

  • At the root of a “good” nightmare is prime comedy and just like the dash of cinnamon to chili enhances the spicy without tasting like a seasonal cookie, a pinch of humor enriches the story’s scary without reading like a seasonal cookie. Each entry for this year’s Samanta Schweblin Chili Cookoff is wonderfully all over the flavor map, which makes for a enjoyably quick read. Always leave ‘em wanting more!
      ―Ian McCord from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA | Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Seven Empty Houses finds Samanta Schweblin in top form. Each story is imbued with a striking precision, as the author is funny, ominous, heartfelt, and brutal often in quick succession. Many of the scenes in this collection feature characters that aren’t often the focal point of any given story, Schweblin gives us a glimpse into their worlds and the results are stunning.
      ―James Harrod from Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC | Buy from Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe

  • Short Stories are always an odd thing to get into because they tend to drop you in a story quite in the middle of them and unceremoniously eject you before the story is truly complete. They are more snapshot than feature film. Schweblin’s snapshot stories are unsettling and comforting all at once. They speak to the tender strangeness of family and the simultaneous fear/desire for death. I want to give this book to someone as a book hangover cure for Sue Rainsford’s Follow Me to Ground.
      ―Annie Childress from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA | Buy from E. Shaver, bookseller

About Samanta Schweblin

Samanta Schweblin is the author of the novel Fever Dream, a finalist for the International Booker Prize, and the novel Little Eyes and story collection A Mouthful of Birds, longlisted for the same prize. Chosen by Granta as one of the twenty-two best writers in Spanish under the age of thirty-five, she has won numerous prestigious awards around the world. Her books have been translated into twenty-five languages, and her work has appeared in English in The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine. Originally from Buenos Aires, Schweblin lives in Berlin.

Megan McDowell has translated books by many contemporary South American and Spanish authors; her translations have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Words Without Borders, and Vice, among other publications.

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Spotlight on: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

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I set out secretly thinking of this book as my own homage to You’ve Got Mail, and specifically a bit of a hat tip to Parker Posey’s character. But looking back, I’m really amazed how much more of my love of that movie seeped into the book. The publishing industry, the quaint bookstores, the love for New York, the enemies-to-lovers, and the flirting over email.” ―Emily Henry, Interview, She Reads

 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

What booksellers are saying about Book Lovers

  • This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I love the way Emily Henry writes a story. She makes her characters well rounded and adds elements to their story outside of romance. But she writes the romance so well you can’t help but swoon. She makes me laugh, she makes me emotional, and she makes me never want to put her book down.
      ―Emily Bowers from Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, FL | Buy from Tombolo Books

  • Anything that Emily Henry writes is an automatic buy for me and I know will be popular! Book Lovers was no different. The writing flows, the dialogue is funny, witty, and loaded with emotion. The relationship between the characters is everything you want in a romantic comedy. You’ll find yourself rooting for everyone, including the supporting characters. Absolutely adored Book Lovers!
      ―Emily Lessig from The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, VA | Buy from The Violet Fox

  • Everything I love about the bookstore I own – and the life I get to led – in small town North Carolina is described somewhere in these pages. Most people will laugh out loud while reading. I got teary at the end as I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters. This book reminded me of Susan Wiggs’ The Lost and Found Bookshop, just sheer delightfulness wrapped between covers consisting of pure love for indie bookstores.
      ―Alissa Redmond from South Main Book Co in Salisbury, NC | Buy from South Main Book Co.

  • Emily Henry has done it again and stolen my heart completely with her two main leads. In this one, a literary agent and a book editor end up stuck together in his tiny hometown, which happens to be the whimsical setting in the bestselling book she agents for– one he gave a scathing rejection to upon their very first meeting. It’s a “we think we’re enemies” but are actually idiots-to-lovers who perfectly fit each other kind of story. Henry is the unquestioned queen of banter, but this is probably her wittiest, most laugh-out-loud funny book to date. I had so much fun reading BOOK LOVERS
      ―Cristina Russell from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL | Buy from Books and Books

About Emily Henry

Emily Henry is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read. She studied creative writing at Hope College, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. Find her on Instagram @emilyhenrywrites.

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White Horse by Erika T. Wurth

Indigenous woman Kari James loves heavy metal, Stephan King novels, and her local bar. When her cousin unearths a bracelet that belonged to Kari’s mother, Kari is suddenly haunted by both her mother and a horrible entity. In order to rid herself of both spirits, Kari will have to face her past and unearth secrets about her family. This engrossing debut blends horror with mystery with a deft hand, and I look forward to what Wurth does next.

White Horse by Erika T. Wurth (List Price: $27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250847652, November 2022)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Tennal is a neuromodified ‘reader’ who can read emotions and minds. He’s also a spoiled, rich playboy who’s now been conscripted into the military, forced to sync with neuromodified architect Surit who can control others. But when Surit finds out that Tennal is not there of his own free will, he refuses to execute the illegal sync, and the two determine to fake it until Tennal can manage an escape. Through action-packed missions involving possible traitors, political intrigue, and family secrets uncovered by them both, Tennal and Surit forge a bond that brings them closer to each other than either has been to anyone else — but can it transcend Surit’s principles and Tennal’s desire for freedom? I loved watching both Tennal and Surit’s character growth within Maxwell’s wonderful world building, and the slow burn romance was amazing.

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250758866, November 2022)

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

Offended Sensibilities by Ganieva Alisa

A novel that takes place in a Russian town where officials are dropping dead after a recent law that stifled forms of expression has been passed, following the real-life events of a Pussy Riot church protest. The neo-noir feel that envelopes this political yet humorous novel fits perfectly and makes this a fantastic and original read. Though this deals with conversations on nationalism, religion, and sexuality among others, the light humor and prose kept this novel more digestible and entertaining.

Offended Sensibilities by Ganieva Alisa (List Price: $16.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646052233, November 2022)

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Cloisters by Katy Hays

The Cloisters by Katy Hays is what I imagine Mary Shelley might write if she lived in the 21st century. There are elements of horror, a little romance, an eerie setting, characters that will keep you guessing, and an ending you won’t see coming. But more than that, The Cloisters seems to play with a lot of the same themes that Mary Shelley did – ambition and fallibility, romanticism in nature, dangerous knowledge, secrecy, and isolation. But where Shelley writes about what makes us human (or not), Hays writes about what agency we have as humans. Do we have free will? Is anything predestined? Or is everything just fate?

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.

Sound intriguing?

Come tiptoe through the hushed hallways of The Cloisters, teeming with dark academia that whispers ancient secrets from the shadows. Mysteries smolder at the edges. What begins as a slow burn will have you holding your breath as you race to the end. The Cloisters is chock full of art history, architectural delights, and occult vibes.

This was one of those books that took over my world while I was reading it – casting a thin veil of darkness and tension over everything until I was so immersed in the characters and story that I was thinking about them and what would happen next throughout the day. Even almost a week later, I’m still pondering… the secrets we all hold, the dreams we have for ourselves and how far we’re willing to go to reach them. And whether any of that is our choice… or just fate.

Get ready to break out your tarot cards -I sure did!

The Cloisters by Katy Hays (List Price: $28.00, Atria Books, 9781668004401, November 2022)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Spotlight on: Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin

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I know this is so cliché, but honestly, just write. When I sat down to start writing, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me forever. Just actually starting to write and then reaching out and finding a community. I actually found my first writing partner in a mom group. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. We were just like, ‘You’re so good. You’re so good too.’ That’s all it was — finding support because it can be really lonely. Sitting down and finding one person that you can trust not to just stomp on you is really important.” ―Alexa Martin, Interview, Medium

 

Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin

What booksellers are saying about Better Than Fiction

  • Drew isn’t a reader. But she did LOVE her grandma. So when Grandma died and left Drew her bookshop, Drew put aside all her dreams and ran the bookshop. Now, she hasn’t had much luck with men, including her human garbage can of a father, so she’s just put dating out of her mind. But then in walks Jasper Williams: popular romance author and sheer perfection of a human being. She doesn’t stand a chance.
      ― Jennifer Jones from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

  • A rom-com that centers around Drew, a woman whose grandmother has just passed and in turn has left her the old bookstore she ran for years. One issue: Drew is not a book lover, and she can’t especially stand romance. And then comes Jasper Williams, the dreamiest romance author, whose mission becomes for Drew to fall in love with reading. It’s fun, steamy, and has a fantastic cast of characters, especially the residential book club The Dirty Birds. I also loved how this portrays grieving, and that adds something so special to this book. Sure to make your heart warm up with just utter joy, this is the cutest!
      ―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • An utterly delightful read — how can anyone resist a romance set in an indie bookstore? I loved that Drew Young, new owner of her late grandmother’s beloved Book Nook, is NOT a reader. It was such a fun set-up for Drew’s romance with a romance novelist. It’s catnip for bookstore lovers. I adored that Alexa Martin wrote in so many lovely day trips out of Denver; I felt like an armchair tourist reading this book, and I made a list for the next time I’m in Colorado!!
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.

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