The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fantasy

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power

In this Greek-inspired fantasy, the adult debut of Wilder Girls author Rory Power, families rule with the power of saints or gods, and siblings find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing war. The world building was very unique and interesting to me, and I would recommend for fans of court politics in their fantasy.

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power, (List Price: $27, Del Rey, 9780593354971, May 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Dreamy, dark, and mysterious. Danger, desire, and enigmatic. Filled with characters you want to know more of and places you want to be. Hotel Magnifique is oh so delicious!

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor, (List Price: $18.99, Razorbill, 9780593404515,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Susan Williams, M Judson Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Book of Night by Holly Black

Holly Black has returned with a darkly enthralling new world where shadows are more than just a trick of the light, and magicians are the thing that go bump in the night. With everything from a kick-ass female lead, grand heists and blood magic, this is an urban fantasy that comes with a bite and leaves with a door slam to the face. I can’t wait to see where Black takes the rest of the series. Readers with a taste for the macabre won’t be able to put this one down. Black’s foray into adult fiction feels like a breath of fresh air for the modern fantasy reader, with a dash of dark academia and a new magic system that begs us to ask the question: what really is a human soul?

Book of Night by Holly Black, (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250812193,  May 2022)

Reviewed by Emma June Wood, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat

Wren Warren is one of the four founding families of Hollow’s End that holds one of the mysterious crops that tourists flock to. Everything in her life was perfect until the corruption started seeping into the town. Now they’re all trapped in quarantine trying to fight back the “Blight” with no help from a mysterious government agency. Wren will have to ask her ex Derek for help before it’s too late for her and the farms. This was a delightfully dark and delicious read. Not only do we have a very good doggo named Teddy, we also have real and raw characters that leap off the page into your heart. If you like your horror with a bit of small town gothic, this is for you and it’s perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat (List Price: $18.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593382165,  March 2022)

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

Wingbearer by Marjorie Liu

Wingbearer is a beautiful fantasy graphic novel written by Marjorie Lu. The world is breathtakingly beautiful along with having an enchanting story. I was at the edge of my seat following Zuli’s journey from the great tree to the world she supposedly came from. I loved the side characters and can’t wait to see the full color version. This is a middle reader fantasy that will draw in even the most reluctant of readers.

Wingbearer by Marjorie Liu, (List Price: $12.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062741158,  March 2022)

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

Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. Cooney

I snagged the book because of the necromancy, but the tagline of “fun, froofy, and glorious: a coming-of-age story” is absolutely correct. The comparisons to Gideon the Ninth will be inevitable, but the tone of this book tends more towards the cheerful morbidity of the Addams family than the grimness I felt at the core of Gideon.The story follows Miscellaneous Stones, a necromancer born with an allergy to violence into a house of assassins and murderers as she grows into her power. As important to the book as her growing necromancy is the way she comes to terms with her family’s legacy and the burden of their sins. Despite the solemnity of the topic, Lanie herself has such a joyous attitude that infects the book and makes me smile even now. I really enjoyed the entire book and look forward to reading her continued adventures. In particular, I can usually predict story beats long before they happen but the author managed to surprise me with the depth and complexity of the characters, especially the antagonists.

Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. Cooney, (List Price: $27.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781786184702,  April 2022)

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

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

This #ownvoices novel rips the reader out of their world into the Yoruba-Nigerian world of Sloane. A recently drafted child soldier of the Lucis, who destroyed and still destroy people like her, ones that have powers from the gods, a Scion. Sloane is put through brutal test after brutal test all while trying to find out what happened to her mother who disappeared two years before and survive the bloodbath that is basic training. While this novel isn’t for the weak of heart, it’s perfect for anyone who loved A Song of Wraiths and Shadows and Children of Blood and Bone. The debut novel is nonstop action and punch after punch, perfect for readers who don’t like any slow parts in their reads.

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye, (List Price: $18.99, HarperTeen, 9780062954046,  March 2022)

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

Gallant by V. E. Schwab

Olivia Prior has grown up in an orphanage, unable to speak, the only one able to see the ghouls around her. Her mother’s journal is her only link to her unknown past, until she gets a letter from an uncle she didn’t know she had, summoning her to her family home, Gallant — a place her mother had warned her against in her journal, even as her words spiraled into madness. But Olivia longs for a place to belong, and so she goes. It turns out, though, that Gallant is more than just a house. When Olivia crosses the crumbling garden wall, she finds herself in a shadow Gallant, ruled by death, and she has to decide which world she really belongs in. Schwab has a way of telling stories that really gets to the root of the story — yes, this is a story about family and loss, life and death, a doorway between them, and a girl who can live in both worlds, but Schwab makes it so much more, breathing life and meaning into everything Olivia is and does and wants to be. A beautiful book for fans of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman..

Gallant by V. E. Schwab, (List Price: $18.99, Greenwillow Books, 9780062835772,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Only A Monster uses my favorite type of time travel device (the fixed timeline) to craft an incredible tale spanning decades and centuries. I felt like I was right alongside Joan, trying to unravel the mysteries of the monster world. The idea of these sort of monsters moving throughout our world is a fascinating, if terrifying, one, and I was immediately intrigued. I wasn’t sold on the story right away, but the monster mystery was enough to keep me hooked until I really fell in love with the story itself. The world feels well-developed and larger than Joan and Aaron and our protagonists, and you get a distinct sense that a lot is going on in the “normal” world, while we see only a small fraction where we’ve chosen to focus our lens. Only A Monster is both heartbreaking and spellbinding, leaving you breathless for a happy ending. Will you get one? Only time will tell!

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len, (List Price: $18.99, HarperTeen, 9780063024649, February 2022)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia



Spotlight on: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

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Shelley Parker-Chan

"What I really like about SFF is how it can offer meaningful representation of marginalized identities in a gentler and more cathartic way than realistic contemporary fiction…SFF is really good at is creating types of otherness that don’t exist in the real world. Readers can project aspects of themselves into these characters without having to have the character accurately represent all of our real-life experiences. It helps sidestep that reaction of “oh, that isn’t my experience of my identity.” "–Shelley Parker-Chan (via Locus Magazine)

She Who Became the Sun

What booksellers are saying about She Who Became the Sun

  • What a powerful book and an epic of a debut! The exploration of gender and gender identity wrapped in the epic fantasy package is just *chef’s kiss* This book is so magically queer, and it was extremely powerful to see these amazing genderqueer characters take center stage in such a sweeping and beautiful story. The writing is immersive and lyrical, the characters are compelling, and I was sucked in right from the beginning. It’s brutal, it will wreck you, and you will finish wanting so much more. A must read of the summer!! ― Candice Huber from Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop in New Orleans, LA
    Buy from Tubby & Coo’s

  • This powerful, sweeping debut tracks female monk Zhu Chongba as she refuses to succumb to nothingness in 1345 Mongol-ruled China. The side characters are complex, the world building is immense, and Zhu’s quest to be great is filled with unexpected twists and turns. ―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN
    Buy from Parnassus Books

  • She Who Became the Sun is a grim military fantasy about identity, gender, public versus private perception, and most of all ambition: who are you when you force destiny to take notice of you? What horrors will you commit to keep destiny’s attention? Zhu Chongba disguises herself as a man (specifically, a monk) in order to stave off death by starvation during a drought. Along the way, she gets involved with fighting the invading Mongols, using her cleverness rather than military brawn to gain power. —   ―Whitney Sheppard from The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, AL
    Buy from Snail on the Wall
  • I can say without a doubt, right now, this is my number one book of the year. And I’ve read a lot of books already and have many more to read. I’m a history person, I have a bachelors in history, so when this book was pushed to me as the reimagined story of the founder of the Ming dynasty but Sapphic, I, a Sapphic history lover was very intrigued. It takes a little bit to properly slide into the flow of the book and the main character, but once you’re in, you are IN. The dialogue flows so beautifully and snappy, the characters fold around each other as the history we already know unfolds around them. And the betrayals! The hunger for destiny and revenge! I loved every single second of this absolutely golden book, and can’t wait for the next! ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

About Shelley Parker-Chan

Shelley Parker-Chan is an Australian by way of Malaysia and New Zealand. A 2017 Tiptree Fellow, she is the author of the forthcoming historical fantasy novel She Who Became the Sun. Parker-Chan spent nearly a decade working as a diplomat and international development adviser in Southeast Asia, where she became addicted to epic East Asian historical TV dramas. After a failed search to find English-language book versions of these stories, she decided to write her own. Parker-Chan currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is very grateful to never have to travel by leaky boat ever again.

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Reclaim the Stars by Zoraida Córdova

Reclaim the Stars is a knockout collection of young adult SFF short stories from voices of the Latin American diaspora. Each story feels personal, powerful & stands strong on its own, but I love the marvelous tapestry this book creates by binding them all up.


Reclaim the Stars by Zoraida Córdovas, (List Price: $19.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250790637, February 2022)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida


Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

Anatomy: A Love Story is a dark and deadly tale about just how far you’d go to achieve your dreams in a world designed for you to fail. I fell in love with Hazel and Jack. This was a gothic story of resurrection men and women surgeons in disguise that had me guessing until the last moment.

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250774156, January 2022)

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

Spotlight on Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente

“Unlike most of my work, Apples turned up in my head whole one day a few years back. I knew exactly where it was headed, how I’d get there, and how I’d wreck the neighborhood on the way there before I ever touched one letter on my keyboard.”–Cathrynne M. Valente (My Favorite Bit)

The newest book by the prolific and much-beloved Catherynne Valente is described as a thriller, a horror story, and a fairy tale. But more detailed descriptions are delibertately lacking. That was intentional: “It has such a massive twist that we’ve worked so hard not to spoil in the lead-up to its release (and reviewers have kindly helped out!)”

The story centers around Sophia, who is a happy housewife with the perfect husband living in a gated community she loves. Until one day she discovers what looks like the tip of a human finger when she is cleaning her house. Suddenly, Sophia’s perfect life seems not quite so perfect.

The conspiracy of silence around the plot and its twists has not prevented a rising chorus of surprised delight from Valente’s readers. Valente has written across multiple genres and formats, including the recently released speculative climate-change graphic novel The Past is Red, which was a recent Read This Next! selection by Southern booksellers. Her work, as an interviewer for Gridmark Magazine notes, includes stories of myth and superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, comedy and horror, and both middle-grade and adult.

“It’s very important to me to always be trying something new,” says Valente, “pushing the edges of my skill level”

Comfort Me With Apples

What booksellers are saying about Comfort Me With Apples

  • As crisp and delicious as its namesake, with an equally rotten core. Catherynne M. Valente continues to be one of the most creative, diabolical, and insightful writers of our time.  ― Jenny Luper from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Small and delicious, more thrilling than thriller. Valente’s prose is gorgeous and strange. I caught the mystery halfway through the narrative, which didn’t lessen any of this little novel’s power. For that witch in your life, or for a woman you know that needs to be reminded of her own ancient worth. ― Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • What a creepy delight this short book was! Valente’s masterful prose creates a sense of suspense and unease that permeates the whole book– we know something is amiss, however, it isn’t until the very end that we understand who and what the threat really is. Comfort Me With Apples is like if The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bible combined and made one twisted new story.  ― Jessica Baker from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Yowza, this book! I don’t really know how to classify it – sort of horror, sort of sci-fi, sort of a class of its own. A retelling of Adam and Eve, but with a cast of Stepford-like characters, this packs a lot of wildness in just over 100 pages. Apples truly is difficult to describe without giving anything away so trust me – just read it. ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, and Hugo awards, as well as the Prix Imaginales. Valente has also been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Families are hard to live with, even more so when it seems like everything you do tears you apart further. The Ivory Key opens with a family torn asunder, tossed to four separate lives, yet they’re still as connected as ever, and they need each other, even though they refuse to admit it. I loved every single second of this book, but mostly, I loved the realistic nature of every relationship. I loved that the true backbone of this story was a family, that even though the plot was something much greater than them, they were the most important thing. Raman has a gift for storytelling, and it shines brightly from within the pages of The Ivory Key.

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman, (List Price: 18.99, Clarion Books, 9780358468332, January 2022

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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