The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words, combining laugh-out-loud wit with unexpected pathos. I gobbled up Shrines of Gaiety – which features a motley crew of characters in 1920s London, including a nightclub boss, a chief inspector intent on weeding out corruption in the police, a teenage runaway in search of fame, and a former WW1 nurse in search of said missing teenager – in just a couple of days. Recommended.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, (List Price: $29, Doubleday, 9780385547970, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

This intertwined collection of short stories is a powerful and engrossing American debut from Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. The stories travel from 1920’s Nigeria to modern day New York and back again, following multiple characters all interconnected by strong women whose choices echo on for generations. Very well paced and structured, each story moves quickly and seamlessly into the next. Romance, power struggles, day-in-the-life: this novel has something for everyone.

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, (List Price: $27.99, Amistad, 9780063117044, September 2022)

Reviewed by Alex Einhorn, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

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Angie Cruz Photo Credit Erika Morillo

In this moment of despair, while I was waiting on a crowded subway platform – I saw this woman in her late 50s teaching herself English. She held this kind of handbook and reminded me so much of my tías, my grandmother – all these women in my life who were laid off during the Great Recession in 2007. After working in the same factory for over 25 years, they were supposed to start over again. They had a lot to offer, but to go on a job interview is something they’d never done before. Thinking about this compelled me to go online and look up the most popular interview questions. I downloaded interview questions, and Cara Romero came to life. I heard her say, “You want to know something about my life? I’ll tell you about my life. I came to this country because my husband wanted to kill me.” ―Angie Cruz, Interview,Dominican Writers

 

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

What booksellers are saying about How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

  • Cara Romero wants to work. She is drawing unemployment but must check in with a job counselor and at each of her meetings she tells of the issues she had and is having in her life which keep her from getting a job. She is truly a good person and helps her neighbors any time she is needed. Stay with this book and Cara’s stories because the end is worth it!―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina
    Buy from The Country Bookshop

  • Cara Romero wants to work on everything and everyone but herself. She is strident, self-aware, and always always always focused on survival, trusting herself above any other human. She loves hard and takes care of the people she thinks are worse off than herself, often at her own expense. Sbe embodies what it is to live within layers of self-protection, every layer as loving as it is hard, and be confronted with the shortcomings of such an existence. Told in a series of interviews and reproductions of various paperwork (job applications, job openings, aptitude tests, etc), Cruz has created an emotional wringer of a book as unwavering as its protagonist. With an exquisite voice that is hilarious, bleak, and absolutely formidable, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is an expertly woven character study so bigger than itself.
      ―Miranda Sanchez from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • I would not have thought Angie Cruz could outdo herself, but I was completely wrong. I loved Dominicana and felt so connected to the protagonist. She’s done it again with a woman in a similar situation but a completely different stage of life. Told through a set of interviews as an aging woman desperately seeks work, this is a story so full of heart you will not be able to walk away unaffected. In parts funny and tragic, this is a gorgeous portrait of life in America.  ―Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    Buy from Bookmarks

About Angie Cruz

Angie Cruz is the author of the novels Soledad, Let It Rain Coffee, and Dominicana, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. She is founder and editor in chief of Aster(ix), a literary and arts journal, and is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

I didn’t realize this was the 5th book by this author but it was good as a standalone. The family is living in Palm Beach after being forced to leave Cuba because of the revolution. 1964: Isabel is married to Thomas though it is more of a marriage of convenience than one of love. There has been no communication between the family and her sister Beatriz for a few weeks. Beatriz is involved in dangerous spy work with the CIA so Isabel decides to travel to Barcelona to check in on her. When she arrives she finds her sister’s apartment empty and meets Beatriz’s friend Diego. The two of them are concerned for her sister’s safety and start searching for her. Eventually, the two develop a close bond which has Isabel second-guessing her whole life.

1936: Alicia, (Isabel’s mother) travels to Barcelona from Cuba with her young daughter, Isabel, after finding her husband with another woman. While in Spain she reconnects with a man from her past who she once had feelings for. Spain is in the midst of a civil war and violence is erupting. Alicia has to make some quick decisions about her life and her heart. The author does such a great job in weaving the stories of this family together. There is so much going on that you just don’t want to stop reading!

Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593197820, May 2022)

Reviewed by Trish Peters, Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia

Witches by Brenda Lozano

Witches, by Mexican writer Brenda Lozano, features quite possibly the most distinctive voice I’ve come across in fiction this year. Feliciana’s narrative, recounting her life as an indigenous healer – or curandera – is hypnotic, elliptical and utterly absorbing. Her story intertwines with that of Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City sent to report on the death of Paloma, Feliciana’s muxe – or third gender – cousin. Their stories combine to highlight the struggles of women striving to be true to themselves and to find their own voices.

Witches by Brenda Lozano, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220687, August 2022)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Spotlight on: Lark Ascending by Silas House

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Silas House Photo Credit C. Williams

I think The Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is one of the greatest pieces of music to ever be created. I cannot listen to it without tearing up. I listened to it the entire time I was writing the novel and the book is my interpretation of it. The composition is a journey, sonically. It captures flight, and it is full of both sorrow and joy, grief and hope, so it was the perfect soundtrack for this book that was centering on those themes. To me, it is a transcendent piece of music, and I hope that readers will seek it out while reading the novel. I’ve already created a playlist for the novel, containing all the music that was important to me while I wrote the book. ” ―Silas House, Interview, Still Journal

 

Lark Ascending by Silas House

What booksellers are saying about Lark Ascending

  • I passed this on to one of good customers who is a huge Silas House fan knowing she would much eloquent than I, and, boy was I right. Here’s what she said “You read other dystopian novels and think, “that could never happen.” You read Lark Ascending and you see that it could. I hope this novel gets the attention it deserves. Lark Ascending could save us ―Pete Mock from McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina
    Buy from McIntyre’s Books

  • The urgency of the opening chapters is breathtaking, and then the source of it is laid bare: this is the imagined not-so-distant future resulting from the chaos and painful transformational change similar to what we’re going through right now in our world. The young man, the dog and the older woman at the center of the story are trying to survive in a world on fire, one burning to the ground with fire and hatred. Each choice they make – big and small – may cost them their lives, or someone else’s. A haunting story, one that makes you really think about the trajectory of our collective lives. I couldn’t put it down!
      ―Cathy Graham from Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida
    Buy from Copperfish Books

  • Set in a near future that seems to be closer and closer to becoming a reality, Lark Ascending follows Lark as he survives ordeal after ordeal. As harrowing as Lark’s story is, Silas House manages to imbue it with humanity and hope. This is a story that will stick with you for a long time.  ―Chelsea Bauer from Union Ave Books in Knoxville, Tennesse
    Buy from Union Ave Books

About Silas House

Silas House is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, one book of creative nonfiction, and three plays. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the AdvocateTimeGarden & Gun, and other publications. A former commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, House is the winner of the Nautilus Award, the Storylines Prize from the NAV/New York Public Library, an E. B. White Honor, and many other awards.

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Ithaca by Claire North

Ithaca takes place in a time while Odysseus is away, and is narrated by Hera, the goddess of women. Many suitors have arrived to try and take the hand of a could-be widow. It’s up to Penelope and her band of women to hold things together, not just for her, but for the sake of the entire kingdom. From unexpected visitors, suspenseful skirmishes, and a lust for power, this is the story of the not so quickly told, unsung protectors of Ithaca. What an amazing, gorgeous take on what was going on while Odysseus has been gone. Spoken from the viewpoint of Hera, this captivating story brings up many people that are usually left by the wayside as far as Greek mythology is concerned. There were a lot of characters, and at first it was a bit difficult to remember which person was which. For the most part, North solves this by giving insight into what each one of them is doing whenever mentioned. From traitors of the kingdom, to a coming of manhood for my personal favorite character, Telemachus, the suspense and build up never failed. The marathon of the middle was exactly that for me, but that is North’s beautiful attention to detail, pulp, and background building that I love from her writing. The ending was a shot out of nowhere. Wondering who would come out on top at the end was something I questioned during the entire read. All I know is, like with almost all of her books, the last five or six chapters tie everything together and are somehow always better than the rest of the book, if that’s even possible. All of my questions, answered. All loose ends, tied.Six stars out of five; I suggest everyone grab this book when it comes out if you are a fan of Greek Mythology, fiction, suspense, and all around good writing. This is the setup of a series, and it was extremely captivating the way North went out of her way to have all the geography, gods, and goddesses of ancient Greece historically accurate. She definitely showed the conflict between them and how some, if not all, are more “humanly” than I had considered when I went through school learning about Greece. It was really nice to have a change of pace from North’s usual writing, but this had her style all over it. Will be grabbing a physical copy in September, to add to my collection of Claire North books and I cannot wait to see what happens next in the story of Penelope.

Ithaca by Claire North, (List Price: $28, Redhook, 9780316422963, September 2022)

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

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm reads like smooth jazz music, with a full cast of interlocking characters creating a complex harmony that I could not get enough of. Circus Palmer is our main character, an aging and floundering jazz musician who charms and cheats on the women in his life. Never have I wanted so badly to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into him! The women truly take center stage in this story, loved and abandoned by Circus in turns. The narrative was full of angst, but the ending was sweet and redemptive. Fans of Luster and Red At The Bone will love this one.

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell, (List Price: $28, Pantheon, 9780593316443, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Vivian tries to live her dream of becoming a star through her three daughters, who’ve become a local sensation as a singing trio. She’s spent years training them vigorously on the roof top of her home and booking performances at nearby venues, when one day she gets a promising offer that could change their lives. But the girls have dreams of their own, and one by one each unfolds, threatening the vision Vivian has built for them all. At the same time, and the neighborhood is about to change as developers descend on Vivian’s community to buy up homes and business properties. Set in 1950’s San Francisco, I enjoyed this family drama and each member’s search for individual fulfillment, in the midst of their collective struggle to keep their community together. Intimate, emotional – a pleasure to read!

On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, (List Price: $28.99, Ecco, 9780063139961, September 2022)

Reviewed by Cathy Graham, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Spotlight on: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

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Sunyi Dean Photo Credit: Richard Wilson of Richard Wilson Photography

I’ve never (yet!) set fire to a large Scottish mansion as Devon does, nor numbered my body count in the dozens as Devon has. (Though hope springs eternal, as they say.) But I did grow up reading fairy tales and believing in false happy endings, as she did, and my life has been irrevocably altered by parenting, single or otherwise, as hers was.

Out of personal apocalypse and a total collapse of hope, good things eventually came about—for me, and for Devon.

The Book Eaters is both a love letter to fairy tales, and a critical examination of their flaws. Above all, it is a story about family love in the midst of ruination: how we define it and defend it, how we find it and fight for it.” –Sunyi Dean, Letter to readers

 

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

What booksellers are saying about The Book Eaters

  • This has definitely become one of the books that I wish I had written! Sunyi Dean manages to perfectly capture the feeling of wanting to devour a good book, in all of its fantastical glory. Between the morally grey characters, English moor setting, and enviable prose, Dean has written a modern fairy tale for the ages, where the girl saves herself and monsters are not the ones you would expect. A truly stunning debut novel! ―Hallie Smith from Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • This dark and at times disturbing debut novel is an exploration of the depths that a mother will go to in order to protect her son. Devon Fairweather is a book eater – a secret race that literally consumes the written word – and has a privileged but strictly controlled life. All that changes when her son is born a mind eater, and she’s forced to rebel against her upbringing to ensure his survival. Perfect for anyone in need of a Gothic fantasy fix.
      ―Jude Burke-Lewis from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
    Buy from Square Books

  • A truly dark and fantastical read that is rich with an assortment of literary references and gothic elements. The Book Eaters is a deliciously unique take on vampirism that you’ll really want to sink your teeth into.  ―Kassie Weeks from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
    Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • A wonderfully fantastic story about a secret line of people who do indeed eat books, and their unfortunate brethren who are doomed to consume minds. I quickly found myself rooting for the main character Devon, who is a book eater princess and mother fighting to help her mind eater son. There are some creepy bits, but not too bad for this non-horror reader. Inventive worldbuilding and compelling read!  ―Serena Wyckoff from Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida
    Buy from Copperfish Books

About Sunyi Dean

Sunyi Dean is an autistic SFF writer, and mother of two. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wildswim in lonely dales. The Book Eaters is her debut, and you can find her online @Blind_Nycteris.

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If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

Jonathan Escoffery’s debut If I Survive You chronicles an American immigration story full of hope, heartbreak, promises broken, and most importantly the constant struggle. Told in interconnected stories, If I Survive You addresses class, race, and economic disparity but is also funny. Mark my words, Escoffery is a rising literary star.

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, (List Price: $27.00, MCD, 9780374605988, September 2022)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

The Duong sisters are cursed. It all started with their ancestor Oanh, who defied tradition and left her husband for true love, and in turn, was cursed that her descendants would all be female, and none of them would ever experience love. Now, living in Orange County’s Little Saigon, the current descendant Mai is desperate for anything to break this curse, so she visits a trusty psychic who flips her world upside down. With many narrators, whip-smart humor, and at the center of it all family healing, this is a perfect Summer read.

The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh, (List Price: $27.00, Atria Books, 9781982188733, September 2022)

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

We Spread by Iain Reid

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

I adore the way Iain Reid can make you feel so clueless and enthralled at the same time. During most of We Spread I had no idea what was going on and it was completely fine by me. The way he writes, even the most horrifying feeling, is soothing. I found myself trying to read slower as I neared the end because the experience passed too quickly.

We Spread by Iain Reid, (List Price: $26.99, Gallery/Scout Press, 9781982169350, September 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Salazar, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector

These animal stories are masterpieces of skill in the narratorial voice, shining jewel-like displays of how much characterization can be snuck in the smallest choices in diction. Lispector is like Thurber and Saint-Exupery in that she can write a story as enthralling for children as adults.

The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector, (List Price: $17.95, New Directions, 9780811229609, September 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Delphi by Clare Pollard

Beautiful at the sentence level, Pollard’s Delphi deftly captured the weird, stagnant time of the early covid-19 pandemic through the first year. Her depiction of the strangeness of everyday life is lovely: the fear but especially the monotony. The main character had been researching divination methods of the ancient world prior to the pandemic; various forms of divination, ancient and modern, frame the short chapters. The methods are sometimes directly discussed or even used by the character to gain some semblance of control, but at other times, the chapter header appears only in an oblique nod: a flight of birds, a television unwatched. Taking a wider lens, the story is largely interior and for large stretches very little happens (though in an interesting way). The main character, her husband, and her son tackle isolation and conflict and the pressure to just go along with extended family’s risk assessments (whether stricter or looser); they take risks to connect with friends and coworkers that often turn out fine. There’s a flurry of the high-stakes plot near the end – even foreshadowed, the introduction of the conflict felt rather sudden, and the resolution arrived so abruptly that I turned the page expecting a denouement to find the acknowledgments page instead. But I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this book for a while.

Delphi by Clare Pollard, (List Price: $26.00, Avid Reader Press, 9781982197896, August 2022)

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

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