The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Spotlight on: Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

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Jen Beagin, photo credit Franco Vogt

I’d never done manual labor before, and I remember my hands aching in the middle of the night. I was also useless without sugar, caffeine, and nicotine. I needed all three, all the time. The women I worked with ate apples for breakfast. Apples. It was baffling. They were always offering me fruit, and I was like, Get away from me with your disgusting bananas. They drank tea and didn’t smoke. They swept mindfully. They appreciated the meditative aspects of cleaning. They could clean three houses and still go to the gym and out to dinner. I showed up with donuts, and then ate all the donuts.” ―Jen Beagin, Interview, Bloom

 

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

What booksellers are saying about Big Swiss

  • Big Swiss is the sort of strange and beautiful novel that you have to read to believe. It’s utterly shocking, absolutely hysterical, and beautifully cynical. Honestly, it was unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I laughed out loud on every other page, rolled my eyes at the pervasive hipster things Big Swiss pokes fun at, and thoroughly enjoyed the quirky atmosphere. However funny and entertaining, though, know that Big Swiss is also an intimate and often disturbing portrait of mental illness, infidelity, and trauma. It’s a close encounter with human damage and nothing is off limits.
      ―Emily Lessig from The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, VA | Buy from The Violet Fox

  • I knew this book was going to be for me when the blub said it was for fans of Killing Eve and it really didn’t disappoint! The feeling of slowly watching a train wreck happen was prevalent as Greta made the absolute worst decisions she could, but that’s what made this enjoyable. Greta is super flawed and unreliable but that’s what it makes her feel so human.
      ―Ndobe Foletia from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books

  • JBrilliant, acerbic, and vulnerable in its hilarity, this bonkers narrative is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Greta is obsessed with Big Swiss, Big Swiss is obsessed with Greta. They probably hate each other, they probably hate parts of themselves that the other adores. It’s all so ridiculous and sexy. There’s immense violence and sadness, but so many off kilter details that make you feel like all of its real and nothing is real at the same time. Which makes it the perfect book. It’s like a reality built on fantasy but the foundations are wearing thin so you can see all the swirling and neon madness underneath.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • One might call her an eavesdropper, but that wouldn’t entirely be accurate as Greta is actually being paid to transcribe the sex therapy sessions she is listening to. After devouring this clever, darkly hilarious romp, you’ll feel a bit of a voyeur yourself, but boy, will you be glad you peeked between the covers of this gem.
      ―Angie Tally from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC | Buy from The Country Bookshop

About Jen Beagin

Jen Beagin holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and is a recipient of a Whiting Award in fiction. Her first novel Pretend I’m Dead was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and Vacuum in the Dark was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. She is also the author of Big Swiss. She lives in Hudson, New York.

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Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

This book is such an unexpected delight! It’s told in an epistolary style- journal entries, with you, the reader, being an outside observer to events that have already happened. However, Heather Fawcett’s style of writing is such that it seamlessly blends with the narrative and you forget entirely that you’re reading a journal! It’s cozy, heart-warming, absolutely page-turning, and will leave you both satisfied and wanting more. It’s unique, enchanting, and one of my favorite reads of this year, perfect for anyone who loves fantasy and especially the fae!

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, (List Price: $28, Del Rey, 9780593500132, January 2023)

Reviewed by Preet Singh, Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia

More Than Meets the Eye by Iris Johansen

Iris and Roy Johansen are prolific authors whose works remain fresh and engaging. Kendra Michaels is a very unique character. Blind until she was twenty and had a novel operation to restore her sight, she really wants to focus on her music therapy practice. However, her finely tuned senses make her incredibly useful to the FBI. Her morals and care for others make it hard for her to refuse when asked to consult on cases. This one is particularly heinous, a serial killer has agreed to reveal the location of one his victims. As the grave is excavated and a large crew looks on an explosive device is activated. Kendra can’t say no when asked to help untangle this twisted rope of evil.

More Than Meets the Eye by Iris Johansen, (List Price: $29, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538726235, February 2023)

Reviewed by Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Spotlight on: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

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Kate Clayborn, photo credit Kate Clayborn

I have to be honest—I had a friend fic! It was a notebook I shared with two close friends during my first year of high school. We would write these stories to each other and pass the book back and forth. In Georgie, All Along, she and her best friend do the same, although their version of it is a little more focused than mine was—young Georgie and her best friend are very focused on imagining the perfect versions of their lives once they get to the new high school they’ll be attending. My friends and I, I’m embarrassed to say, were far more focused on our celebrity crushes! But I was really inspired by that hopeful, imaginative experience of my teenaged self—I wanted to think about what that notebook represented about the experience of growing up.” ―Kate Clayborn, Interview, Above the Treeline

 

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

What booksellers are saying about Georgie, All Along

  • Clayborn, All Along! She never disappoints. With supportive, but odd-duck parents, Georgie has always had a “soft” place to land and as a result is “expansive”, so much so that she has a hard time focusing in on what she wants in her life and her future. Levi had no such parents, with no support network from his family when he needed them most, and as a result has made himself tight and small in his life and his wants/needs. When they meet, they learn to let go of their past and with her as his “soft place to land” and he allows himself to expand into himself and she learns to trust her own self and what she truly wants.
      ―Angela Trigg from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn’s books come with high expectations of an excellent story. She always delivers, and Georgie, All Along is no different. The writing is engrossing and diverting and it’s impossible not to relate to or love Georgie as she finds herself and her way. January is rich with romance, and this is an excellent winter read to curl up with.
      ―Preet Singh from Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, GA | Buy from Eagle Eye Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn hits a home run with Georgie, All Along. I loved this relatable story about a woman coming home to find herself and reconnect with the dreams she had in high school. She’s a quirky mess who puts everyone’s needs before her own and she meets Levi, the brooding older brother of her high school crush, who also has a past he’s working through. I enjoyed the small town setting, the cast of characters and the nostalgia of revisiting high school escapades.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • A charming and witty story about how our pasts can shape us. Unexpectedly, Georgie, a personal assistant that has just lost her job and Levi, onetime town troublemaker, find themselves as roommates. They are both trying to reinvent themselves and use Georgie’s high school diary as a blueprint for their transformation. Georgie did not write in her diary about what was happening then, but her dreams and wishes for the future. Georgie and Levi have great chemistry and of course there is a great dog, Hank.
      ―Pam Crawford from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Kate Clayborn

Kate Clayborn is the critically acclaimed author of contemporary romance novels. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Bookpage, and more. By day she works in education, and by night (and sometimes, by very early morning) she writes contemporary romances about smart, strong, modern heroines who face the world alongside true friends and complicated families. She resides in Virginia with her husband and their dog.

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Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli

Over seven days in a psychiatric ward in 1994 in Italy, the main character Daniele Mancarelli (who shares the author’s name and some life experiences) documents his involuntary committal. We spend most of our time on the ward itself with occasional flashbacks of the six patients’ and staff’s pasts. Mencarelli (author and character) is also a poet, and the language is beautiful and delicately translated by Wendy Weathly. While not dismissing the need for the truly suffering or dangerous to be treated, the author presents much to be considered about the way society categorizes those who are simply different or passing through a difficult phase of life.

Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli, (List Price: $22, Europa Editions, 9781609458065, January 2023)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Boy with a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund

Owen has an exposed space in his chest where Gail, a wise and chatty java sparrow, has lived since he was a newborn. His mother has hidden him from those who would hurt him because of his difference, but he’s a teenager now and must figure out who to trust and how to be — or even if he CAN be. I really enjoyed this sensitive and heartbreaking coming-of-age story about a queer boy, his bird, and their friends. Though not usually drawn to magical realism, I found myself almost believing in the possibility of Gail, and that was a real joy.

The Boy with a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund, (List Price: $17, Atria Books, 9781982171940, January 2023)

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

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli

This is such a beautifully written story. The characters are so wonderfully honest and real. You are truly immersed in Eve’s world, you feel her pain and confusion. This is the story of one woman’s journey through grief and guilt after her husband takes his own life. Written like a memoir, straight from Eve’s thoughts and feelings, we follow her through every up and down, her highs and her lows. This is a beautiful reminder about the struggles of mental illness and the hidden pain of those around us. This is a must read!

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli, (List Price: $27.99, Graydon House, 9781525899805, September 2022)

Reviewed by Makayla Summers, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Spotlight on: Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

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Leigh Bardugo, photo credit Christina Guerra

I have never met someone who reads only from one shelf. I don’t think young people read that way and I am always wary of what people may deem “too much” for younger readers because I think they actually have a pretty good barometer of what they can handle and will happily set a book aside when it starts to go places they don’t want to go…I suppose when I’m writing adult, I feel a little freer to take my time with the world and the lore, and to dig more deeply into the grotesque. I also swear more.” ―Leigh Bardugo, Interview, The New York Times

 

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

What booksellers are saying about Hell Bent

  • Welcome back to the hidden darkness of Yale’s campus, and the magic that soaks its architecture and history. Though society leaders have declared Darlington dead and gone, Alex and Dawes know better – and they will go to any end to save him. Hell Bent is magical, resplendent with fierce characters, a devious and twisting plot, and at its core a deep interrogation of the cost of power and the lengths at which the privileged will go to maintain it.
      ―Jordan April from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • I don’t think I’ve eagerly anticipated a book as much as I have Hell Bent, and let me just say that the wait was worth every. Damn. Minute. Diving back into the world of Galaxy Stern and Lethe felt like being wrapped up in my favorite childhood blanket while also sitting just a bit too close to the fire. Leigh Bardugo somehow managed to create a story that is both intensely dark and strangely comforting and I look forward to devouring every last book in this series.
      ―Kassie Weeks from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Imagine if you will, me opening a window and screaming “DARLINGTON” at the top of my lungs. No that’s not my review, I just needed to make my feelings known. Hell Bent is a bloody, brilliant continuation that forces found family on the most ill fitting of individuals that somehow just work. It’s an exploration of grief, growth, and is somehow sexy despite it all. Rife with tension and lore desperate to be discovered, I can’t help but hope that book three won’t be the end. Now, if you don’t mind, I must get back to screaming out of my window about Darlington.
      ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the creator of the Grishaverse (now a Netflix original series) which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—with more to come. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House (Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Fantasy 2019), which is being developed for television by Amazon Studios. She lives in Los Angeles and is an Associate Fellow of Pauli Murray College at Yale University.

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The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen

Fascinating setting and wonderful characters. This place – where Sweden, Finland, and Russia converge – is defined by the intensely cold climate. The church is converting indigenous Sapmi families, the government is imposing its colonizing laws, and this ensemble cast of characters is wrestling with who they are and how they fit in as change slowly sweeps through. Great writing, wonderful characters, and I learned so much about the cultures and some of the politics of this place during this era.

The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen, (List Price: $28.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250822901, January 2023)

Reviewed by Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Lucrezia de Medici has been the least favorite child of the powerful Grand Duke of Tuscany since birth and so has been able to grow up almost in the shadows of the royal court in Florence. At thirteen, she is betrothed to the future Duke of Ferrara- in her dead sister’s place. At fifteen, she is married to him and sent away from the only home she has ever known to a troubled court with her new, and older, husband. She has no allies in this new place save one, her handmaid. Day by day, Lucrezia discovers the cruel nature of her husband; the depth of the problems he faces in his new role as Duke; an utter aloneness since she can’t trust anyone and, superseding all else, the immediate need for her to produce an heir to cement the throne of her new family. It is no surprise this is a New York Times best-seller and a Reese’s Book Club pick- it is a wonderful work of historical fiction, and O’Farrell proves once again she is a master at this genre.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593320624, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Anderson, Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina

Spotlight on: City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

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Iris Yamashita, photo credit Anthony Mongiello

The real isolated town of Whittier, Alaska was something that has been in the back of my mind for over 20 years. I had watched a documentary back when the city could only be reached by train or boat and the tunnel had not yet been open to car traffic. When I started thinking of setting a murder mystery there, I watched a video driving through the two-and-a-half-mile one-way tunnel and it made me think of falling through a rabbit hole where I was going to end up in a strange Wonderland with some odd characters, and then the pieces started to come together.” ―Iris Yamashita, Interview, The Nerd Daily

 

City Under One Roof   by Iris Yamashita

What booksellers are saying about City Under One Roof

  • The setting for City Under One Roof was so intriguing that I immediately looked up whether such a place existed – and it does! Couldn’t help feeling claustrophobic with the closed in atmosphere of the bldg and being cut off from the outside world. Sinister goings-on because almost everyone there is hiding from something, but you don’t know what. Or who to trust. Loved it!
      ―Eileen McGervey from One More Page Books in Arlington, VA | Buy from One More Page Books

  • If Twin Peaks and Fargo had a baby, it might look like this book. Based on the real town of Whittier, Alaska, a crime is committed in this a snowbound burg where everyone lives in the same high-rise and everyone, literally, knows everyone. 205 residents and no one is talking about the severed hand and foot that have washed ashore on Point Mettier. Anchorage detective Cara Kennedy has reasons to investigate the discovery beyond her job. Accessible only by tunnel, the storm traps her in the town with its secrets, a murderer, and a memorable moose.
      ―Kelly Justice from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • The setting for City Under One Roof (literally a 205 unit high rise with infirmary, police department, etc. all under one roof) in an isolated area of Alaska that has been cut off from the outside world due to an avalanche in the tunnel which is the only road in or out is only part of what makes this debut novel such a page turner. The mystery, which involves a hand and foot washing up on a beach, and a head found buried in a barn definitely gets your attention. But, best oi all are the cast of quirky characters all with background and baggage. Perfect for fans of City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong.
      ―Nancy McFarlane from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

About Iris Yamashita

Iris Yamashita is an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter for the movie Letters from Iwo Jima. She has been working in Hollywood for fifteen years developing material for both film and streaming, has taught screenwriting at UCLA, and is an advocate of women and diversity in the entertainment industry. She has also been a judge and mentor for various film and writing programs, and lives in California.

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The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera

It’s a great debut, spooky, atmospheric, with family drama, and full of small town secrets. Gotta love a strong female main character, who is unafraid of danger. There are twists and turns in every moment…the suspense is palpable. This book is impossible to put down.

The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera, (List Price: $27, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593540213, January 2023)

Reviewed by Amy Loewy, Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, Louisiana

Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire

The powerful combination of otherworldly magic with this world’s grit gets me every time, in every Wayward Children novella. This one’s for anyone who’s ever experienced loss as a kid, been a lost kid, or lost their innocence—for all of us in one way or another. For Antsy, it’s the loss of her father and all the loss that occurs in its wake, and then Antsy finds the Shop Where the Lost Things Go and a vast series of doors to incredible and unusual places—but it’s easy to lose track of yourself when you’re busy finding new things, new people, and new worlds…

Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire, (List Price: $21.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213631, January 2023)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Spotlight on: Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

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Monica Heisey, photo credit Harry Livingstone Photography

I went through a divorce at a young age myself, and it was quite isolating — most of my peer group wasn’t even married yet, so I didn’t have anyone around me who could relate to what I was going through, and I became desperate to read or watch something about the experience. While there’s no paucity of divorce art in the world, I couldn’t find anything that summed up how specifically ridiculous going through it all at 28 in the late 2010s felt. I also wanted something that didn’t take the whole thing too seriously — a lot of heartbreak art is quite heavy, when it really is one of life’s funnier circumstances. I also knew that I didn’t want to write a memoir — partly because every divorce is two stories, and it didn’t feel fair to commit only mine to print, and mostly because I didn’t think I could be funny about my real-life situation. So I invented Maggie and Jon, and tore up their life plans instead.” ―Monica Heisey, Interview, Entertainment Weekly

 

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

What booksellers are saying about Really Good, Actually

  • This book feels like it was written exactly to my sense of humor, age group, pop culture knowledge, etc., so I, of course, loved it! Maggie didn’t expect to be getting a divorce at the age of twenty-nine–now she’s left feeling alone and adrift when she expected to have at least one aspect of her life set forever. This book chronicles the lonely, messy, embarrassing year that follows Maggie’s decision to split with her husband as well as the difficult journey to self-improvement in a self-obsessed, social media, millennial ennui-focused era.
      ―Julia Lewis from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Funny and cringingly relatable, Monica Heisey is the Canadian answer to Dolly Alderton and Stephanie Danler. “Messy” is the only word for the 29-year-old protagonist reeling from the end of her marriage, but you can’t help but root for her to make it through her difficult first year post-separation
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • This gritty original take on The Breakup Novel is a combination of the age-old human pastime of watching a train wreck happen in front of your eyes (you just can’t stop watching/reading!), and a Jane Austen-level take on relationships and the need for women to have value and identity outside of their romantic relationships. The friendships are hardcore. The slowly emerging self knowledge of the main character is empowering. The stream-of-consciousness style of writing means you’ll want to read it all in one long gulp. Loved it.
      ―Elisa Forshey from Givens Books Little Dickens in Lynchburg, VA | Buy from Givens Boks Little Dickens

  • Agreed, Really Good, Actually is perfect for fans of Schitt’s Creek ( author Monica Heisy wrote for the show!) and the recent novels, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton and How to Fall Out of Love Madly by Jana Casale. Funny, tender and so very relatable
      ―Jessica Nockfrom Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

About Monica Heisey

Monica Heisey is a writer and comedian from Toronto. She has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, The Guardian, Glamour, New York magazine, and VICE, among others. She has written for television shows like Schitt’s Creek, Workin’ Moms, Baroness von Sketch Show, and more. She currently lives in London. This is her first novel.

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The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

Cauley cleverly constructs a story about how disenfranchisement cultivates a daunting landscape. Anyone who has been forced to make a decision with limited choices will instantly connect with and root for the main character Aretha. Even if it’s a bit stressful to witness.

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley (List Price: $27, Soft Skull, 9781593767273, January 2023)

Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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