The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy

Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night meets Fantasy Island in this beautifully written story about family, love, and loss. Set on a private island in the Caribbean during the 1970’s, Willy May Michaels, a wealthy divorcee, moves to the luxurious playground for the rich, engaging in numerous soirées with the likes of Princess Margaret, Colin Tennant, and Mick Jagger. She is later joined by her troubled daughter Hilly, a fashion model whose actions summon Willy May’s oldest daughter, Joanne. Their relationship to date, has been strained, but as the daughters begin to understand their mother and each other, the seemingly glamorous life on Mustique begins to unravel as they face the most difficult storm any of them have ever faced.

This character-driven novel explores many facets of mother-daughter and sibling relationships revealing that it’s never too late to deal with pain of the past. The discoveries that Willy May, Hilly, and Joanne make are precious, and their bond is strengthened through tragedy

Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy, (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062984371, April 2022)

Reviewed by Sharon Davis, Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia

Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

I feel so strongly about this book, I truly think this is the best book I have read this year. A piece of art. The author managed to capture so perfectly the thoughts of sexuality, gender norms, and expressionism in a woman in her 20s. I admired her pushing the boundaries to talk about topics that are considered taboo, such as polyamory, infidelity, and manipulation. The writing was so beautiful, the characters were all so addictive, yet so horrible, and I just couldn’t put it down. Majority of the text is thoughts that the main character has, rather than action, so if you don’t like that, this is not the book for you. I feel like I could recommend this to any girl my age that is vocal about sex, feminism, and love. Truly a book I think everyone should read. I never like to re-read books, but this is a book I can definitely see myself re-reading. I am dying for a sequel, or at the very least, another novel by Lillian Fishman.

Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman, (List Price: $27, Hogarth, 9780593243763, May 2022)

Reviewed by Yarah Elshaer, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

This book was beautiful. Rakhi was such a carefully crafted character with such a distinct voice. The novel has a sense of place and identity that is wholly it’s own and immensely compelling. The book speaks to poverty and voluntourism and privilege and hypocrisy while maintaining a focus on character and story. It paints upon a setting that unblinkingly presents both the beauty and the injustice of Bombay, and it presents Rakhi as she is—fiery and smart and insightful and honest. This is a perspective that needs to be heard and is so dignifying to its subject. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—I love a book that speaks honestly to the injustices of the world while completely holding its own as a literary work.

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593499504, April 2022)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

OMG this book a WILD ride! It is practically a guarantee that I will thoroughly enjoy just about any book that involves cults… but a cult centered out reproduction and motherhood? Holy moly count me in. What really stood out to me about Just Like Mother (and what I believe sets it apart from other reproductive-themed thrillers) was how it features a child-free protagonist and explores the many layers of being a woman who decides to not have children. To a cult of women who deify motherhood as the pinnacle of being, who is a woman that rejects motherhood? A radical, a traitor, and a threat to their entire identity and ethos. The sense of dread and tension that permeates and persists throughout the entire story really is fantastic. Every moment that I was listening to the audiobook, my stomach was turning with the feeling that some horrible, terrible, ever-worsening doom was just around the corner. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Joanne Ramos’s The Farm, and to anyone who has been searching for a child-free perspective in the reproductive thriller genre!

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Nightfire, 9781250787514, May 2022)

Reviewed by Caroline Barbee, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Pelt Shelby Van

How can you not love a book that has a curmudgeonly octopus as a central character? Remarkably Bright Creatures is a heartwarming story about loneliness and grief, community and connection, and a family mystery that must be solved — and soon. With charming but imperfect characters and a very satisfying warm hug of an ending, this novel hits all the right notes.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780063204157, May 2022)

Reviewed by Serena Wyckoff, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi

When Man Booker Prize winner Jokha Alharthi writes, a river of emotions pours from her in the most beautiful way possible. Her latest translated novel features a young Omani student in London attempting to come to terms with the grief and regrets of losing her devoted grandmother by not attending to her when she needed her most. The tale drifts back and forth through time, giving the reader a view into the two strikingly different lives of these women; where both bear the weight of unfulfilled desires. This was an exquisite and haunting read.

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220038, May 2022)

Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani’s The Good Left Undone transports you through both time and place, moving effortlessly through four generations of the Cabrelli family and from country to country during one of Europe’s most trying times. It not only impresses the importance of family and the love we share with those we choose, but the importance of the stories and heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani, (List Price: $28, Dutton, 9780593183328, April 2022)

Reviewed by Doloris Vest, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

A feral parable on the violence of racism, misandry, and class from a preeminent, new voice of contemporary Mexican literature. Melchor’s style in Paradais is writhing and slippery, capturing not only a portrait of desperation but the ugliness of the toxic thread that runs through the underside of our collective psyche.

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, (List Price: $19.95, New Directions, 9780811231329, April 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

Y’all, oh my GOD. Akwaeke Emezi has done it again and I love it so much. It is hot and messy and hot-messy and addicting. I thrive on drama and this novel delivers! Forget love triangles, this is a love star, five different points criss-crossing into something bright and beautiful and a little bit hard to look at. As fun and exciting as it is, it also touches on trauma and recovery, self-growth, and love. Utterly heart-wrenching and belly-laughter-inducing.

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi, (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982188702, May 2022)

Reviewed by Laney Sheehan from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

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.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593334836, May 2022)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell from Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

Kim Michele Richardson has given us another wonderful story about the packhorse librarians of Kentucky. In this book, we move forward sixteen years to the early 1950’s and are introduced to Honey Lovett, daughter of Cussy Mary, who must pick up her mother’s library route when her parents are jailed due to the laws prohibiting their mixed-race marriage. Through Honey’s story, we meet new characters and revisit old friends that help her as she delivers books in and out of the hollers, fights for her independence as a young working woman, and struggles to bring attention to the plight of her parents. Kim Michele Richardson writes beautifully about a landscape and a people that has deep and personal meaning to her and that is one of the reasons she is so successful and so loved by her readers. This book is highly recommended!

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728242590, May 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

Love, Hate & Clickbait by Liz Bowery

After their boss makes a homophobic gaffe and a compromising photo of them goes viral, cutthroat political consultant Thom Morgan and down-on-his-luck data analyst Clay Parker pretend to be in a relationship to salvage this presidential campaign that’s barely gotten off the ground. This fun and heartfelt romcom is great for political wonks who want a fast-paced romp and political cynics who have seen the messy underbelly of campaigns. Thom and Clay’s “will they, won’t they” kept me guessing until the wedding bells rang.

Love, Hate & Clickbait by Liz Bowery, (List Price: $15.99, MIRA, 9780778311898,  April2022)

Reviewed by Karen Fletcher, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

A delightful read about the unbreakable resolve women must have in order to overcome adversity and thrive!

This novel is a follow-up  to The Jane Austen Society but can be read as a stand alone. The story follows three women who all end up working at Bloomsbury Bookstore in London. All three have faced failure and adversity, but find comfort and strength at Bloomsbury Books. As the story unfolds, readers find how each woman ended up at the store, and how each one begins to change after the store manger suffers a heart attack and is rendered homebound for a few weeks. During his convalescence, the women work together to have one of the most successful events and more sales than the store has ever seen.

Once the manager returns, however, things go back to the same mundane events and the store suffers a sharp decline in sales. Meanwhile, one of the women has found a rare, first edition book that she’s been searching for since her days at University. This discovery allows the women the leverage they need to improve their lives and allow them to bring the store to its full potential.

The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, (List Price: $27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250276698,  May 2022)

Reviewed by Sharon Davis, Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

Bold and breathtaking, Four Treasures of the Sky redefines the American Western novel. Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s debut spans from China to Idaho, following the journey of Daiyu, a young Chinese girl kidnapped from her home and sent overseas to America. In Daiyu, Zhang has given us one of the most memorable narrators I’ve ever come across–even as Daiyu endures the racism and brutality of the American West, she speaks with resilience and grace. Daiyu’s story might be set in the nineteenth century, but it resonates so strongly with today’s world. This is the kind of historical fiction that prompts us to reevaluate what we know of this country’s history and leaves us better for having done so. I can’t wait to see what Jenny Tinghui Zhang does next.

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang, (List Price: $27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250811783,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Lindsay Lynch from Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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