The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fantasy

Spotlight on: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

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Legendborn digs into what it means to be the only in a room. In the United States, we’re still in situations where Black students find themselves in a room and being the only Black person. The book that I wrote is about engaging with, deeply understanding, analyzing, holding on to, [and] reshaping your own Blackness in spaces where it’s being challenged or dismissed by other people.

The other theme that I wanted to really engage with is like the types of stories and the type of people that become legendary. Growing up in North Carolina [and] going to [the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill], [the Confederate monument] Silent Sam was up the entire time I was a student there and was the specter of a certain type of racism. How do these things become memorialized and legendary, and Black American people, whose ancestors were enslaved, get put in a position of absence of knowledge?
” ―Tracy Deonn, Interview, Shondaland

 

Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

What booksellers are saying about Bloodmarked

  • I’ve thought for days about the review I would give this stunning sequel, but accurate words do not come to mind. I was blown away by the rawness and realness of Bloodmarked. Indeed, Tracy Deonn did not shy away from the rampant institutionalized racism built into the foundation of many influential organizations, like the Legendborn Order. Not to mention the Legendborn’s reaction to the revelation of Bree’s true lineage. Their approach to dealing with the ugly truth? Deny, deny, deny. It’s shameful and disgusting and Bree has to shoulder it along with the rising war between her world and the demons set to destroy it. Bree’s growth as a root user, ether user, and as King is stunning to witness. I truly believe this series should be required reading for young readers, not just because of the extraordinary Arthurian fantasy retelling, but because of the way the characters confront their trauma. It’s amazing, everyone needs to get a copy. I cannot stress this enough- READ THIS BOOK!
      ―Laney Sheehan from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • Can my review just be me… screaming incoherently? No? Well. Bloodmarked broke me into a million little pieces and left me a changed person in the end who wanted to chunk my arc at the wall but as I also loved it too much to hurt it, I did not do that. I merely shook it very violently and shrieked. Bree and the crew returned for an even more dangerous, action packed adventure with the truth unraveling around them faster than they can even keep up. I’m obsessed with this story, with the characters, and if I could live in it… I would not because I would not survive. Tracy Deonn has crafted an absolutely perfect story and has left me weeping on the floor, waiting for the next installment
      ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • This book absolutely blew me away. Simultaneously a fast-paced fantasy novel and an expertly crafted meditation on Blackness, Bloodmarked had me hooked from page one. I loved the world building outside of UNC, and I cannot wait for the next book- I hope this series goes on forever!
      ―Mary Louise Callaghan from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Tracy Deonn

Tracy Deonn is the New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award–winning author of Legendborn, and a second-generation fangirl. She grew up in central North Carolina, where she devoured fantasy books and Southern food in equal measure. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication and performance studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tracy worked in live theater, video game production, and K–12 education. When she’s not writing, Tracy speaks on panels at science fiction and fantasy conventions, reads fanfic, arranges puppy playdates, and keeps an eye out for ginger-flavored everything. She can be found on Twitter at @TracyDeonn and at TracyDeonn.com.

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Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is a fantastic world-builder and her skills are razor-sharp in her newest fantasy set in an Old West mining town where angels had battled demons in an ancient war. Main character Celeste attempts to clear her sister from a murder charge but is impeded and manipulated by the Divines — the ruling class who are descendants of angels and dispense justice while wearing white robes and masks. As she searches for clues to free her sister, she stumbles into a bigger mystery that threatens her life and the future of the Fallen, who are the descendants of the demons and are the laborers and miners in the town. A gritty but good read!

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse, (List Price: $22.99, Saga Press, 9781982166182, November 2022)

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

Spotlight on: Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo

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If the Singing Hills stories have a theme, it’s that they’re stories about stories: how we tell stories and why we tell stories, and where we get it wrong and where we get it right, even when the stories aren’t real or true. When the third volume comes out, I think it will help people see the whole scope of the series, because we’re going back and forth in Chih’s timeline, so back and forth in history. I’m asking people to sit with me for about 100 pages, and just trust me that, whatever I’m telling them, they’re going to have a good time. That’s my hope. ” ―Nghi Vo, Interview, Locus Magazine

 

Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo

What booksellers are saying about Into the Riverlands

  • I love The Singing Hills cycle by Nghi Vo. Each novella is so short and yet so mythic, intricate, and immersive. In this third in the series, which can be read in any order, the wandering cleric Chih enters the Riverlands, a place haunted by legendary martial artists. I enjoyed the journey and Chih’s new companions—but I did end the book a little unclear about something! I had a little trouble concentrating this time so might just be me!
      ―Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • Somehow the Singing Hills Cycle just gets better and better, and Empress set the bar high.  ―Rosie Dauval from One More Page Books in Arlington, VA | Buy from One More Page Books

  • This absolutely delightful novella is the third in Vo’s Singing Hills cycle, though the books read very easily as stand-alones. In a high fantasy setting inspired by imperial China, a cleric roams the world looking for stories to write down. This series reads like its own mythology, full of stories-within-stories that help build a rich and multipartite world, and it brings me immediately back to my childhood love of Greek, Hindu, and Norse myths. The stories are imaginative, and the characters’ reflections on them are thoughtful and striking – this book has an impact well beyond its ~110 pages.  ―Akil Guruparan from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Nghi Vo

Nghi Vo is the author of the novels Siren Queen and The Chosen and the Beautiful, as well as the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, a Locus and Ignyte Award finalist and the winner of the Crawford Award and the Hugo Award. Born in Illinois, she now lives on the shores of Lake Michigan. She believes in the ritual of lipstick, the power of stories, and the right to change your mind.

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The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

This dark, twisty fantasy makes the monsters that roam the forest seem to jump straight off the page! I loved the journeys the characters took and this should immediately be given to anyone looking for a fantasy that is filled with tension, intrigue, a little romance, and just overall creepiness. I will be waiting on the edge of my seat for the second book!

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard, (List Price: $18.99, Tor Teen, 9781250194046, November 2022)

Reviewed by Hallie Smith, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Lucky Girl by M. Rickert

Rickert packs a lot of horror in just over 100 pages! Four friends meet up in a diner on Thanksgiving and start a tradition of getting together for Christmas dinner and telling scary stories. Ro, an aspiring writer, learns that sometimes the scariest stories are so terrifying because they stem from fact – and no one is safe!

Lucky Girl by M. Rickert, (List Price: $15.99, Tordotcom, 9781250817334, September 2022)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is absolutely breathtaking! I had just been complaining to a colleague that I feel like too many books these days have lost a sense of lightness and whimsy in the canon. While this novel would be far from whimsical, there’s a lovely balance of humor and sweetness to the characters that balance out the darkness within the world and the story. Ultimately a story of deciding one’s birth isn’t what’s important, but what you choose to do, I fell in love with all the characters and had to immediately contact everyone I knew as soon as I finished to tell them to put this on their TBR. Katyani is relatable, talented, and has a sense of humor that had me smirking and laughing to myself without even realizing. Don’t miss out on this wonderful Indian inspired fantasy!

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra, (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250823687, October 2022)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Fraternity by Andy Mientus

These chaotic passage of events and writing style reminded me a lot of the novel I Love You, Beth Cooper. Plot-wise, as a YA book, it is extremely insightful in regards to the AIDs epidemic, despite the allure of occult fantasy in this queer coming of age story. It was an entertaining read. I appreciate the tribute to notable gay figures within American history, as well as the representation of queer people of color. In all, it was extremely chaotic, and at times cheesy, but I would still read this and would recommend to those who enjoyed the Haunting of Jake Livingston.

Fraternity by Andy Mientus, (List Price: $19.99, Amulet Books, 9781419754708, September 2022)

Reviewed by Yarah Elshaer, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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

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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Talli, Daughter of the Moon Vol. 1 by Sourya

I love it when the first volume of a series catches your attention and leaves you wanting more. When I started Talli, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At first, I thought it was going to be a normal run-of-the-mill Shonen-like manga where nothing crazily drastic happens to characters. Boy was I wrong. The second limbs start to fly and characters have intense personal issues/trauma means that what you are reading is going to have some meat to it. Really excited to find out more about the lore and characters!

Talli, Daughter of the Moon Vol. 1 by Sourya, (List Price: $19.99, Oni Press, 9781637150825, September 2022)

Reviewed by Ethan Davis, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Mandanna’s novel is reminiscent of timeless stories like Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee, and Practical Magic. It’s heartfelt, hilarious, vulnerable and cozy. The characters in Nowhere House are sure to make you smile and believe in magic again. It made my nostalgic, witchy cottagecore heart so happy.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, (List Price: $16.00, Berkley, 9780593439357,  August 2022)

Reviewed by Miriam Meeks, Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi

Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo

I love dark academia. My love for it started with Harry Potter as a child and has only grown since then. I was delighted to dive into a school of witches and warlocks that’s brimming diversity opposed to the same old tired tropes. When her friend Noreen goes missing in the cursed forest, Abigail will stop at nothing to unwrap the truth and save her mentee. The art is beautiful. This is going to be the perfect recommendation for Halloween and beyond!

Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo, (List Price: 17.9, HarperAlley, 9780063056305, August 2022)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Spotlight on: Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

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Sarah Gailey

I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes something scary. I think that there’s a lot to be said for danger, for the unknown, for hostility to life. Crocodiles are scary because they want to eat you. The dark is scary because it wants to hide things from you. Outer space is scary because it wants nothing from you at all, it is not even aware of you, and yet it can take everything from you with less conscious effort than you and I spend on a heartbeat. But the scariest thing, I think, is not a thing but a place; that place isn’t really a place so much as a relationship. The scariest thing is the space under your bed.” –Sarah Gailey, Letter to readers

 

 

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

What booksellers are saying about Just Like Home

  • Just Like Home is a splendidly twisted story that left me both delighted and disturbed in equal measure. Sarah Gailey checked all of the boxes with this one, and I couldn’t be happier. ―Kassie Weeks from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
    Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Sarah Gailey leaned all the way into the truism that haunted house stories are a way to talk about how horrifying domesticity can be. How families can be a confusion of unkindness and violence and complicity. How home isn’t always something safe (that last one is something Gailey especially makes haunting amoeba strips from). Gorgeous; dark, and glistening. Like soul chemotherapy.
      ―Kyra Rathmann from Letters Bookshop in Durham, NC
    Buy from Letters Bookshop

  • Home is not always where the heart is! Gailey terrifies and amazes with the tale of Vera, who has been summoned back to her childhood home to watch her mother fade away from cancer. The old house is full of memories of Vera’s serial killer father and has become a shrine to his crimes, visited by gawkers, crime writers, and artists who want to get into the wicked mindset of a killer. Vera swore never to return but she just can’t escape the pull of home – and all that it contains. This is chilling and impossible to put down!  ―Andrea Richardson from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Sarah Gailey’s books are wildly imaginative and addictive. Just Like Home is a deeply twisted horror novel about the Crowder family and the symbiotic relationship they have with their house. The horror of the story lies in facts (Vera knows that her father was a serial killer) and in things too disturbing to be real (is there something living under Vera’s bed?) Where reality and the supernatural meet is the brilliance of this novel.  ―Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, South Carolina
    Buy from Bookmarks

About Sarah Gailey

Hugo Award Winner and Bestselling author Sarah Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe. Their short fiction credits include Vice and The Atlantic. Their debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 Hugo and Nebula award finalist. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, was published in 2019. Their most recent novel, The Echo Wife, is available now. You can find links to their work at sarahgailey.com and on social media at @gaileyfrey.

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Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey leaned all the way into the truism that haunted house stories are a way to talk about how horrifying domesticity can be. How families can be a confusion of unkindness and violence and complicity. How home isn’t always something safe (that last one is something Gailey especially makes haunting amoeba strips from). This is the kind of book that’s hard to summarize because ultimately very little happens; or a lot happens but it’s all hinted-at and spoilers. Just memories and remembrances looping around and around in both a slow lead-up to the past and a constant questioning. You spend a lot of time basically knowing what’s likely around the corner, but still being lured in by how twisty it gets – until you don’t know who to root for, or if you’re supposed to be rooting for anyone, or if the serial killer is the villain. Gorgeous; dark, and glistening. Like soul chemotherapy.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Books, 9781250174727, July 2022)

Reviewed by Kyra Rathmann, Letters Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

The closeted son of a nobleman has his life completely up-ended in one day. After being informed of his betrothal to a noblewoman of a neighboring country to cement a trade alliance, Val is forcibly outed by his abusive ex-lover in the worst possible way. Fortunately for him, the neighboring country is much more accepting than his own and the ambassador’s response to this new information is to switch Val’s intended marriage partner to the brother of the previous woman. The story from there unfolds on two plot lines: the very sweet romance between Val and his husband-to-be and the very bloody political intrigue that erupts due to objections to the political alliance their marriage represents. Overall excellent and I highly recommend it.

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows, (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250829139, July 2022)

Reviewed by Kelly McLeod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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