The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

When I want a good book, but don’t want to do a search for a book I might like, I grab the latest Lisa Gardner book. I know I will find a great plot, characters and superb writing. This book just confirms my premise. Frankie leads an all-new cast of characters, and the novel is fast-paced look at a darker side of life. Most of us are fortunate to never be the victim of a violent crime, and your loved one disappearing is a particularly brutal example. When the police have been unsuccessful and hope seems lost, Frankie arrives. She is not a retired cop, private detective, well-funded or connected. She is a broke currently sober addict on the run from the demons of her past. She is flawed, relentless and brilliant in her determination. Another fantastic production from Lisa. It is a standalone so don’t delay!

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (List Price: $27, Dutton, 9781524745042, 1/19/2021)

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

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

If you only read one book this year, this should be the one. It really puts many current issues such as climate change, immigration, and racism into a perspective you can feel personally by immersing you in the story and letting you identify with the characters in the book. Waiting for the Night Song is a lyrical and amazing story about nature and what will happen if we continue to ignore climate change. It is the story of wonderful, productive and caring people who live in fear because of immigration laws, a story about childhood trauma and the effect it has on the three children involved, a story about determination and doing what you believe is right regardless of the consequences, and above all else it is a heartfelt story about family and friendship and just how far and how many lies one will tell or how many secrets one will keep to protect them. If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing, put this at the top of your list. My favorite quote from the book: “When someone says you’re overreacting, but you know you’re right, keep reacting until it’s over.”

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton (List Price: $26.99, Forge Books, 9781250269188, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Hate-to-love romance fans are going to enjoy this one! Paige is a successful business owner who doesn’t need a man in her life to complete her, but she does need a vacation and a break from work. After finding a secluded beach location to celebrate her being single the day after Valentine’s Day, she meets Lucas the bed and breakfast owner. He’s a real jerk to her–since all he needs in his life is his daughter and sister, he doesn’t need a girlfriend in his life to complicate things. But as they get to know each other during her stay, tensions rise physically and emotionally and they begin to question everything they stand for!

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker (List Price: $14.99, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 9781728216492, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Henley has a job she loves at an adventure travel company, but between trying to get ahead there and taking classes for a higher degree, she doesn’t have time for family, friends, or even herself. But when she and a coworker are both up for a big promotion, she goes all in. The only trouble is that the coworker is her nemesis. Ever since he took credit for one of her ideas in his first week at the company, they’ve been at war. So, when as a test for the promotion, she and the dreaded coworker are sent on a cruise to the Galapagos, Henley is less than thrilled. I loved this sweet, friends-to-lovers romance! The wacky hijinks of the cruise, coupled with two people who hate each other, up for the same job, a misfit sister, and a large Russian lothario is a recipe for a fun read!

Shipped by Angie Hockman (List Price: $16, Gallery Books, 9781982151591, 1/19/2021)

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

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

I devoured the majority of What Could Be Saved in a single day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. As the oldest of four children, I’ve always been drawn to family dramas, and nothing strikes my core deeper than imagining the loss of a sibling, which is exactly what drives this novel. Liese O’Halloran Schwarz has created a heartbreakingly beautiful story told through alternating timelines from before and after the Preston family’s only son goes missing while they are living in 1970s Thailand to his sisters’ shocking discovery that he may still be alive in 2019. This is an emotional, meditative story about reconciling and accepting the life we have while making peace with the loss of the life that could have been. The perfect recommendation for readers who enjoy family stories like The Dutch House and The Last Romantics, I know for certain What Could Be Saved will be on my best of 2021 list.

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982150617, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw, where conditions became increasingly harsh during WWII. Gifford tells with great detail of their daily lives–struggling to find food to eat and to not be killed by the Nazis. Over 95% of the 350,000 Jews in Warsaw did not survive the war. A sad story to read but one we must not forget.

The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford (List Price: $25.95, Pegasus Books, 9781643136363, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Divines by Ellie Eaton

This was a gripping and riveting read for people who loved Normal People, Girls, and a little bit of Gossip Girl, with witty banter, promiscuous teenagers, and an adult coming to terms with her wild youth. Josephine, now in her thirties, is reflecting back to her time at an elite British boarding school, St. John the Divine. She and her group of friends, “The Divines,” were known for chasing boys, chain-smoking cigarettes, and raising a ruckus with their teachers. Tragedy las led Josephine to try to forget her time there, but she finds herself coming to terms what happened that day and how it affects her relationships in the present.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780063012196, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships gives voices to the wide swath of women effected by the events of the Trojan War. The list includes women who have been excluded from other feminist revisions of The Illiad: Helen herself, the patient and loyal Penelope, even Calliope, the muse that Homer demanded a song from. Goddesses, wives, victims, survivors, murderers–most of the women in this story are some combination of these roles and all of their stories are worth telling.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (List Price: $27.99, Harper, 9780063065390, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Bauer, union ave books in Knoxville, Tennessee

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

512 heart-pounding pages of action will keep you on the edge of your seat in Persephone Station. Angel, an exiled combat veteran turned small-scale criminal, must gather a rag-tag army together to protect sentient indigenous life-forms from corporate-level encroachment. This book is busy in the best of ways and is easily one of the best space operas of 2021. I cannot recommend it enough.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (List Price: $27, Gallery/Saga Press, 9781534414587, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

Christina Dodd writes complex plots with characters who are complicated and pushed to limits that are hard to endure. Evelyn is no different; a job that should keep her going as a young teen on her own turns out to be the worst mistake of her life. In prison for a murder she did not commit and on her own she has no hope for the future. An escape leaves her living under an alias at a remote camp in Alaska. During the winter she has nothing but time, and she uses it to plot her vengeance and look into other crimes that involve people she meets. The complexity of human nature and capacity for evil is captured in this suspenseful and well written book. Perfect for her fans and any suspense fan who appreciates great characters.

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd (List Price: $17.99, HQN, 9781335080820, 12/29/2020)

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

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

It turns out a there is nothing better in a romance novel than a fake relationship trope! I’ve been waiting for Jia’s story since we first met her and First Comes Like did not disappoint. Jia, the youngest of five Pakistani American sisters, often feels like she is “too much.” She’s incredibly dedicated to her career as a make-up vlogger, which took her to the other side of the country from her family, and is often regarded as impulsive. But really she’s smart and savvy, so when she realizes she’s been catfished, a fake relationship is her answer to making sure her family does not find out. I especially loved the romance in this book; Dev and Jia are so perfectly matched even if they came together in an unconventional way. Every decision Jia made felt true to her personality, her loyalty to her family and friends, and her religion. I loved this book!

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (List Price: $15.99, Avon, 9780062878151, February, 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

A brilliant exploration of class, race, and exploitation in early 20th century New Orleans. Mr. Sitwell runs the house in all but name. Like all great houses, there are many secrets inside and all of Hubbard’s characters are well-drawn with complex pasts. Hubbard studied under Toni Morrison and you can really tell with the way she treats her characters–normal people with complicated lives — drawing you as a reader deep into their minds and feelings. It’s a fantastic book and I’m so excited to share it.

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard (List Price: $27.99, Amistad, 9780062979063, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Inspired by early female garden designers, this is a tale of the gardens in an estate and the three generations of women who live and work in them–from the design of the gardens, to their use during WWII, and to their restoration after years of neglect. An easy read and one that makes you want to visit the gardens of England.

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly (List Price: $28, Gallery Books, 9781982107826, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman

I love a secretly royal romance, and The Princess and the Rogue nails it. There’s dangerous intrigue, a rake turned servant of the Crown, boiling sexual tension, and an ice cold heroine who proves herself more than capable of taking on anything.

The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman (List Price: $7.99, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 9781250306098, 12/29/2020)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Zorrie by Laird Hunt

I was completely enamored with this incredibly moving novel. Zorrie, like its main character, is full of heart. It is a stunning achievement and a testament to a singular life–that of Zorrie Underwood, a midwestern girl who is orphaned at a young age and forced to reinvent herself over and over again as she overcomes hardship and tragedy to find joy, heartbreak, wonder, family, love, and loss during the course of a good long life. In under 200 pages, Hunt masterfully portrays her and her world with a deep and resounding richness which reflects the power and beauty of our own humanity.  

Zorrie by Laird Hunt (List Price: $26.00, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635575361, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Cody Morrison, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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