The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Nick by Michael Farris Smith

Author Michael Farris Smith has pulled off a tremendous literary feat. His latest novel, Nick, can play two roles. The first, a magnificent stand alone novel for readers unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby. The second, Gatsby fans will have a deeply satisfying lens to observe the life of narrator, Nick Carraway, and the events that formed one of literature’s most beloved voices.

Nick by Michael Farris Smith (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316529761, 1/5/2021)

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

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Many of our favorite historical fiction novels move us to tears, compel us to turn pages, and tie us in knots over the fate of characters. All of these emotions are in play as we read Yellow Wife, based on the notorious Richmond slave jail known as the Devil’s Half Acre and its cruel master. We follow Pheby’s life, from her earliest years as a plantation slave, her journey to the jail, and her years as mistress and slave to the master of the jail and mother to their children. We watch as her desperate choices and will to survive and protect those she loves draws her evermore into dangerous situations. Her dreams of freedom, passed down to her by her mother, drive her and at times sustain her while living in such close proximity to the jail where she was witness to the depths of human cruelty. A powerful story not soon forgotten.

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson (List Price: $26, Simon & Schuster, 9781982149109, 1/12/2021)

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

Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson

First of all, the premise–Depression-era divorce ranches for wealthy women to wait out their divorces in Reno–is just wild. Second, Julia Claiborne Johnson’s voice is just so dang funny, and her characters are spot on. I love it!

Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson (List Price: $28.99, Custom House, 9780062916365, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Itinerant Literate, Itinerant Literate Books, LLC in North Charleston, South Carolina

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Fans of The Hating Game, rejoice! Thorne’s third novel lives up to the promise of her first with dizzying dialogue, undeniable chemistry, and some legitimate tear-jerking moments. Second First Impressions has characters you will love, from sheltered protagonist Ruthie to cackling biddies Renata and Aggie. Goofy hero Teddy is different from your average dreamboat, and his burgeoning relationship with Ruthie has all the bliss and heartache of true love. This is a cozy, cuddle-up-on-the-couch comfort read that’s sure to become as popular as its predecessors.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (List Price: $15.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062912855, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push, a debut novel, is a psychological thriller that tells the tales of three generations of women who have been abused and are passing on their traumas to each other. The unsettling reality that Blythe finds herself in is her inability to know what a good mother is or how to become a good mother. She doesn’t have the confidence to trust her instincts.  So, when she finally had her daughter, Violet, nothing seems to be the way it should, but how can she truly know. This book makes you think about how fragile mother-daughter relationships are and where struggles between them originated. 

Blythe is trying to change the abuse sequences, but her husband is dismissive and provides no support. Thankfully she has a clue what it means to be a loving mother by her relationship with a neighbor growing up who could see her for the beautiful child she was.  Kirkus Review wrote, “A finely wrought psychological study of motherhood and inherited trauma…not for the faint of heart; it offers no easy answers.”  All I can say is that it has been a long time since the very last paragraph changed the entire book for me.  I read this book in one sitting. 

The Push by Ashley Audrain (List Price: $26.oo, Pamela Dorman Books, 9781984881663, January 5, 2021)

Reviewed by Lauren Zimmerman, Writers Block Bookstore in Winter Park, Florida

Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman, Ariana Franklin

This series is one of my absolute favorites and I am so happy that Franklin’s daughter has written this final installment. As Adelia ages, her daughter Allie is beginning to come into her birthright and take over the healing and mystery solving that made her mother famous. In 1100s England, being a medical examiner is difficult enough without adding in the complication of being a woman. But when several young women go missing and turn up dead, Allie has no choice but to risk her own safety to solve the horrible crimes. I am sad that this story has to finally end, but am very happy with the way it is concluded.

Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman, Ariana Franklin (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062562388, 10/20/2020)

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

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert’s Brown sisters books just keep getting better and better! Although I related the most to Dani Brown, I think I loved Eve Brown the most, even though she literally hits someone with her car in the opening of this book. As far as meet-cutes go, it’s not the most opportune! The picturesque bed and breakfast in the Lake District was the perfect setting for this sweet romance.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (List Price: $15.99, Avon, 9780062941275, 3/9/2021)

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

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin

Rosie has an impressive job as a sous chef at a Michelin starred restaurant and a husband she loves. But it all comes crashing down when her husband dumps her for someone else…on her birthday, no less! Rosie looks at her life and realizes that her job doesn’t actually make her happy. So the morning after a bit too much to drink, Rosie wakes up to discover that she’s bought a travel camper. She then decides to give the nomad life a try as she travels around in her new, mobile tea shop.

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin (List Price: $16.99, HQ, 9780008414207, 2/16/2021)

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

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (Illus.)

A fun, spooky gothic horror that spans years and so, so many lesbians. You’ll always flinch at yellow jackets after this read.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (Illus.) (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062942852, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Jenny Luper, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC

Consent by Annabel Lyon

In Vancouver, two women are innately connected by the sources of their grief. What at first begins as separate family tableaus–of Sara’s and Saskia’s parents and young adulthood and strife in defining themselves as individuals beside their siblings–slowly and masterfully braids into a mystery led by these two protagonists, haunted by the apparitions and very memories of those for whom they cared. Peppered with the lush descriptions of decadent textures, jewel-like alcohols and olfactory notes so accurate you can almost sense them, Consent is a sensual and sophisticated-yet-blunt story of grief and retribution that I couldn’t put down.

Consent by Annabel Lyon (List Price: $25.95, Knopf, 9780593318003, January, 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

It is 1909 in Spokane, WA, and orphaned brothers Gig and Rye Dolan are barely surviving day to day…taking odd jobs where they can find them and hopping trains to get from place to place. When older brother Gig gets involved in the IWW union and gets himself in trouble, 16-year-old Rye picks up where he left off and finds himself deeply entangled in the dirty business of brutal police, deal-making, and shady businessmen. You really do become invested in the characters as you’re drawn deeper into their stories of desperation, hard times, and brotherhood. If you liked Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach or Paulette Jiles’s News of the World, this book is for you!

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter (List Price: $28.99, Harper, 9780062868084, 10/27/2020)

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

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Nina, an Italian Jew, pretends to be the wife of an Italian Christian farmer to survive the war. Robson has written a believable story of some of the horrors of the Nazi regime and how they affected the lives of ordinary people.

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson (List Price: $17.99, William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062674975, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

Deep into the Dark by P. J. Tracy

A solid story with great characters and a really good story line…and a new series for P. J. Tracy. It’s set in the seedier area of Los Angeles and is the story of Policewoman Margaret Nolan working on a serial killer case. It’s also the story of Sam Easton, back from Afghanistan, just trying to make it through the day. Toss in a friendship with Melody Traeger who has her own set of demons, and you’ve got a complex plot with just the right amount of sub-plots to make it hard to put down. It’s a story of love and a story of betrayal. It’s a story of making a new life and attempting to keep those demons away as you do. And when it all comes together…ah, I’m not going to spoil it! A must read!

Deep into the Dark by P. J. Tracy (List Price: $26.99, Minotaur Books, 9781250754943, 1/12/2021)

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

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff
Ecco, March

This book was just what I, a somewhat jaded bookseller, needed right now. Many thanks to all who brought it to life. The character development is just about perfect. These are people whom we meet, come to know, come to care for, and eventually cheer for. I can’t say it’s the most original plot, but it was the most satisfying version of “kids in peril” that I can remember. The adults come together in surprising ways, each on his or her own Hero’s Journey, and end up becoming their best selves for the benefit of the boys. It’s a lot for a first novel, but it just works–it comes across as so earnest and good-hearted, completely un-ironic in the best way. The river is both a plot device and a metaphor, as the kids barrel toward their doom. It makes this character-driven novel a real page-turner. I will be an evangelist for this book.

— Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, NC

Red Island House by Andrea Lee

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Red Island House by Andrea Lee
Scribner, March

Beautiful, evocative writing propels a familial narrative through a journey of self-discovery and identity. The book follows Shay and her complicated relationship with her husband as they build and vacation in a sprawling estate in Madagascar over several decades. It is a novel of betrayal and class and colonialism, of race and culture and the social dynamics that underpin and threaten their marriage (and human society as a whole). As the clash of cultures and identity careens closer to Shay, she can no longer avoid making a choice about who she is and wants to be. With tinges of A Woman Destroyed, this is a story of finding your own foundational dignity in life’s wreckage.

– Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC

Scroll to Top