The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!


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, 2022-01-04)

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

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

In this seventh volume in the Wayward Children series, Cora, the resident mermaid of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, flees the reach of the Drowned Gods of the Moors by transferring to the anti-magical Whitethorn Institute. Seanan McGuire and her Wayward Children can literally take me anywhere; I will gladly open the door and step through every time! I loved learning more about Cora, was as intrigued as always with the new characters introduced and their doors, and I literally gasped at the return of a character. What more can you ask for?

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire, (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213624, January 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Definitely one of the most lyrical stories I’ve read in a while. The base of Chinese mythology provides a rich world full of color and hidden gems of dragons, demons, and powerful immortals, and the author uses all of them with so much fun and grace. I’m surprised to see this is a debut novel with just how much is here, and with how well developed the protagonist–Xingyin–is. Her journey is handled with care and her growth feels natural and genuine, and I appreciate the fact that she never puts down others to make herself feel better, even when it comes to her romantic interest. I’m absolutely hooked on this story and world, and I’m thrilled to see this is the first book in a duology. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for the sequel!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, (List Price: $27.99, Harper Voyager, 9780063031302, January 2022)

Reviewed by Lia Moore, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair

This book is exactly everything I’ve been craving from a vampire book. Been starving for, even, because I’ve been digging for at least a year now for a vampire book that scratches every itch the vampire academy series gave me many years ago as a young teen, but one that I can really appreciate as an adult. Isolde and Adrian are the most perfect, incredibly vicious pairing of human and vampire, and those twists and turns of the plot just set them up so well. I love that Isolde is heavyset and muscular and confident in her body and sexuality, while Adrian is just so very aware of the monstrosity of his nature, and does not care that people are scared of him. And the fact that Scarlett does queernorm society so well is just, chefs kiss. I felt so utterly comfortable while reading this book. It might sound strange, but reading King of Battle and Blood felt like coming home. A very bloody, very sexy home, but a home nonetheless.

King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair, (List Price: $16.99, Bloom Books, 9781728258416, November 2021)

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

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Clementine is a dream warden apprentice to her father until two usurpers show up one day and tear her dreams apart. Now her only concern is getting revenge. But when she finds that the men who stole her role have deeper motives that entangle her father and family, she has to tread more carefully than she ever expected. I absolutely loved Dreams Lie Beneath! This is one of those books that even the minor characters are lively, so much so that I found myself more fascinated with them than the main characters! All in all, this will be perfect for any YA fans of magical mystery.

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross, (List Price: Greystone Kids, 9780063015920, November 2021)

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

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth

This book is all the things I love about Weymouth’s writing: atmospheric, complex characters, compelling narrative, quietly philosophical. Rowenna is a force and I loved her!

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth, (List Price: 18.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534493087, November 2021)

Reviewed by Lauren Brown, The Story Shop in Monroe, Georgia

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Briseis is out of the school for the summer. Her moms want her to have fun, but all she wants to do is work with the plants at their family flower shop in Brooklyn. See, Briseis has the ability to make things grow rapidly and from the smallest of plant parts. But when they get word that her biological aunt has died (Briseis is adopted) and has left her a vast estate, they head up to check it out. But not everything is as it seems. This quirky story has a little bit of everything: a secret garden, magic, immortality, Greek mythology… And that’s barely scratching the surface!

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron, (List Price: 18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547603909, 2021-06-29)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet by A.A. Balaskovits

Strange folk populate these dark tales, fevered nightmares, and twisted fairytales. Readers beware, things most definitely go bump in the night here, and sometimes they bite. Lots of body horror and lots of gore, but if you like your stories fairly bloody, this book is for you!

Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet by A.A. Balaskovits, (List Price: $14.95, Santa Fe Writer’s Project, October 9781951631130)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

If you like a fast-paced, unapologetically feminist, unabashedly nerdy, deliciously inventive read that sucks you into a fever dream of fun, then you must pick up this book. Author Alix E. Harrow has not only turned the dying girl trope on its head, but also answered the question “What if you Spiderverse’d Grimm’s Fairy Tales?” And the answer is: lot’s of fun, a good dose of mind-being physics, and a dash of fairy tale logic. Taking probably one of the most overlooked fairytales, Sleeping Beauty, and ripping it inside out, tossing it upside down, and creating all new rules in a world that is both high stakes and beautiful, Harrow has created a spell-binding world that you’ll anxiously avoid leaving as you rush towards this perfect novella’s end.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, (List Price: $17.99, Tordotcom, 9781250765352, October 2021)

Reviewed by Christen Thompson, Itinerant Literate Books in North Charleston, South Carolina

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

Jade Fire Gold is debut novel from June CL Tan and what a debut it is! Described as a dark romance, I found it to be so much more. I fell in love with Ahn and Alton from the start, and the PINING and ANGST was top tier between the battling and the magic. This is perfect for everyone who miss Avatar the last airbender or other East Asian inspired stories, and will certainly fill in that gap. There’s lots of nice LGBT representation too, no “bury your gays” here, thank goodness! And I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan, (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780063056367, October 2021)

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

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

The problem with Kalynn Bayron’s books is that they are so good I never want the book to end. Is it possible to have ten of her books ready so I can read back to back? Briseis has a magical gift of growing plants with just a touch. Her aunt passes away and Briseis inherits an estate which she initially hesitates moving to; however, she discovers she can practice her gift with freedom. Not long after she and her parents move in strange things begin happening and she discovers the reason why she has these powers and how to protect her family. This was such an amazing escape that I could not get enough of!

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron, (List Price: 18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547603909, June 2021)

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

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

I loved the world-building in this fantasy debut! Rueckert created two different religious systems and blended them expertly into the cultures of the different countries. Newly-queened Jiara must understand both if she’s to lead in peace, AND find out who murdered her sister Scilla, who is quickly becoming a pretty scary earthwalker, a ghost consumed by revenge to find her killer. There’s a lot going on with high stakes but the pacing flows well so it is never overwhelming. Jiara is an awesome protagonist you want to follow to the ends of worlds. She’s brave and kind and is constantly on herself for not living up to her older sister’s legacy due to her undiagnosed dyslexia. But she always looks for the Next Best Thing and by opening her heart to her new people, their Watcher religion (while still embracing her own) she learns so much about her own capabilities. Her relationship with King Raffar is awesome and sweet and so refreshing.

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert, (List Price: 9.99, Flux, 9781635830651, 2021-08-03)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Ellerie with her twin brothers and sisters live in the peaceful Amity Falls that sit on the edge of a dangerous wood. Bells and great pyres keep the darkness at bay, but when strangers appear and Ellerie’s brother Sam starts acting bizarre and hostile, Ellerie finds herself wondering what she would trade to have her parents home and everything back to normal. But in small towns, darkness often isn’t outside, but within the hearts of its residents. Wow. just wow. This is a stunning sophomore novel from Craig, author of House of Salt and Sorrows. I was blown away by the build-up and the dark atmosphere. I stayed up late, laundry sat unwashed, and I was utterly entranced by all the characters in this story. I loved Ellerie and her courage as well as the mysterious Whitaker who stole my heart along with hers. This is going to be one of the most popular books of 2021, so don’t miss out!

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig, (List Price: 18.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593306741, July 2021)

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

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

An exiled princess, a deathly curse, dragons, and magic come together to make Six Crimson Cranes a breathtaking fantasy that had me hooked from the very first chapter. Elizabeth Lim’s world-building is lush and dreamy, the fantasy spin makes this story dark and vivid, and Shiori and her brothers quickly began to feel like old friends to me. If you love fantasy and books that feel like a fairytale, I dare you to pick up Six Crimson Cranes and try to set it down – prepare to be addicted.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, (List Price: 18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593300916, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brad Sells, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

“Barely visible, Riley knelt up in his seat to drape his arms around it, flashing white teeth at Andrew. He made for an iconic, hungry gleam in the settling dark beneath tree shadows and open sky, more animal than boy. It was dumb, deliciously reckless, and that compelling energy struck Andrew with the force of a punch.” Imagine FAST AND FURIOUS as a book, but make it a Southern Gothic, give it a hefty dose of dark academia, and make every character queer. Oh, and also have them haunted by ghosts who may be trying to kill them. That is Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons, a queer horror that sneaks up on you and then tries to possess your body, forcing you to see truths you’d rather ignore. My only complaint is this group would never let me join their pack. Content warnings for general horror, possession, death, drug and alcohol abuse, racism, discussions of past mistreatment of enslaved persons, death of a loved one

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo, (List Price: 26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250790286, September 2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

A queer, Black book inspired by The Secret Garden and Little Shop of Horrors with a flower-powerful, badass girl at the center trying to unravel a family mystery. I simply can’t love it more. It’s amazing and you need it in your life.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron, (List Price: 18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547603909, July 2021)

Reviewed by Rayna Nielsen, Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, Louisiana

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

For fans of love triangles and fierce heroines that kick butt, These Hollow Vows is a dark fantasy full of twists and betrayals. I found it a delightful story that I couldn’t help but tear through. The author’s writing is engaging as much as it is enchanting and I have a feeling that Brie is going to charm many readers. I can’t wait for the next installment!

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan, (List Price: 17.99, HMH Books for Young Readers, 9780358386575, July 2021)

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

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

In a near-futuristic Toronto, blood contains enough genetic material to determine people’s career, their success, and even love life–and for Voya and her family, it also contains an ancestral link to powerful magic. Until, possibly, Voya. As her bloodline hangs in the balance, Voya has to come to terms with who she is, where she comes from, and who she really loves to become the witch she’s always wanted to be. This futuristic fantasy is POWERFUL, to say the least.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury, (List Price: 19.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534465282, June, 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu

I hadn’t read anything by Marjorie Liu prior to the Monstress series, but with how much I love that, combined with the stunning cover by Sana Takeda, how could I resist her short story collection? A sweet sapphic Sleeping Beauty retelling, a runaway princess finds a new quirky family, an apprentice using dolls to seek revenge on her teacher, a villain’s shot at redemption. Liu’s stories gave me goosebumps, made me swoon, and at times cracked me up. This definitely a collection to have.

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu, (List Price: 16.95, Tachyon Publications, 9781616963521, June 2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

If you’re wondering which Great Gatsby adaptation to read this summer, look no further. I read it in one day because leaving it unfinished for even one night felt like a crime; it surpasses “unputdownable.” This is the Great Gatsby we need, narrated by a queer, Viet Jordan Baker who is both outside of society yet more connected in society than everyone else around her. The slightest touches of magic bring The Chosen and the Beautiful to life, displaying a world where not all that glitters is gold, yet firm anchors to the original make every line sing true. I truly love this book.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250784780, 6/1/2021)

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

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

You say you want liberty, but you can never be free alone. None of us are free until all of us are. To be free of Bassa requires power– power in service of us all. Not for you to derive joy from controlling a beast.

In Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa introduces readers to a complex and fascinating new world. One with a complex cast system in which power is isolated in the bloated elite, the truth is hidden even from scholars, and anyone who looks different is exiled to the dangerous fringes of the continent. As a secret power from the time of a mad emperor reemerges and a sunken nation reappears, a young scholar and his intended follow two very different paths to save themselves and their people. I was completely entranced by this story. While he pulls no punches, Okungbowa does not need to lean into the grotesque to make his world compelling. I yelled, I cheered, I felt conflicted about my loyalties, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next. Content warnings for harm to children and pregnancy in addition to violent fantasy elements.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (List Price: $16.99, Orbit, 9780316428941, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

The chosen one goes off to magic school and heroically fights in an epic battle. You’ve heard that story a million times before. But have you ever wanted the snarky take, the irreverent, self-aware version that flips these tropes upside down and lovingly pokes holes in some of the logical gaps in the genre’s conventions? Clever, refreshing, and full of heart, this hilarious adventure full of pesky magical creatures, golden boy warriors, angsty nerds, and elfin knights will leave you thinking that you might be perfectly alright living in this (mermaidless) land.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (List Price: $16, Big Mouth House, 9781618731661, 8/6/2019)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

An original take on a classic legend that explores magic, race, grief and the ideas surrounding who gets to be a hero in a very nuanced and thoughtful way. A modern fantasy story for all the young black girls who need one.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (List Price: $12.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534441613, 9/28/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Malice by Heather Walter

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Malice by Heather Walter
Del Rey, April

Maleficent is one of the ‘villains’ of literature who has seen the most retellings in pop culture but I can confidently say that this is my favorite thus far. There is so much to love about this feminist, sapphic take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Alyce & Aurora are glorious, nuanced characters and their romance is a darkly glittering thing of beauty. This one is perfect for fans of Naomi Novik’s retellings & Holly Black’s Folk of the Air books.

– Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard, author of the popular Red Queen series, is back with a new fantasy series. Odd things are happening in Allward. When a battle with Elders and mortals alike is lost, leaving only two survivors, they know they’re in over their heads, but everyone in power is reluctant to help. Instead, Dom, an Elder, decides to head out on his own to solve the problem. He gets help from an assassin, a pirate’s daughter, and a squire along the way, forming a cadre with a forger, a bounty hunter, and a witch. But the road to victory is hard and they don’t know who to trust.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard (List Price: $19.99, HarperTeen, 9780062872623, 5/4/2021)

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

Lala’s Words by Gracy Zhang

Lala’s kind words, patience, and maybe just a little bit of magic make a tiny patch of dirt into a beautiful place in this delightful picture book that celebrates kindness, fortitude and gentleness. Perfect for Earth Day or every day, Lala’s Words will inspire young readers to plant seeds of kindness wherever they go.

Lala’s Words by Gracy Zhang (List Price: $18.99, Scholastic Inc., 9781338648232, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

Priya has moved all the way across the country from New Jersey to Stanford to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But when she gets Lyme disease from a tick, everything is out on hold while she moves back home to deal with her chronic disease. She’s in pain most of the time, bit ends up finding solace in those with similar conditions online. She discovers one friend in particular, Brigid, lives only about an hour away and when Brigid disappears from the group and stops answering texts, Priya steals the family car to visit her. However, she instead of Brigid, Priya finds an enormous dog/wolf-like animal locked in the basement. She accidentally lets it out, but locks it in the bathroom and calls animal control. But all they find in the bathroom…is Brigid. This was a fun story that also shed a light on how hard it is for people who have a chronic illness, but also the great friendships you can find if you’re open to it.

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal (List Price: $18.99, Quirk Books, 9781683692348, 4/27/2021)

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

The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas

The Last Rabbit has the heart of The Velveteen Rabbit with the mischief of Peter Rabbit. It is sure to be a new classic for children of all ages! This is the beautifully told story about a little rabbit, the last of four sisters, trying to find her path in life while realizing family is all around.

The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas (List Price: $16.99, Wendy Lamb Books, 9780593173534, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Olivia Schaffer, The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I finally had the privilege to read this legendary trilogy while forced into quarantine, and I’m sorry I waited this long. The world of the Grisha, the characters, and the villain was amazing and immersive. It only made me want to dive into the rest of the novels set in this world.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (List Price: $10.99, Square Fish, 9781250027436, 5/7/2013)

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

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore is one of the most gifted fantasy writers of our time. When this book opened from the perspective of a many-tentacled sea creature at the bottom of the ocean, I was surprised and delighted to find myself completely comfortable knowing that this chapter would fit with the larger story so very satisfyingly. And I was right, of course. I am overwhelmed by my love for the Graceling realm and the brilliant way that Cashore has expanded on the world with each of the novels, building such strong, full characters and gorgeous wrought lore along the way. And now there are telepathic blue foxes! And silbercows! And The Keeper! And they all feel more real than my own world, having finished this novel so recently. I hold WINTERKEEP and Lovisa just as close to my heart as I do GRACELING, FIRE & BITTERBLUE and I really will read anything that Kristin Cashore writes.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (List Price: $19.99, Dial Press, 9780803741508, January 2021)

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

Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández

This adorable, vibrant, and fantastical graphic novel perfectly captures the power and magic of friendship. Despite her best intentions, Manu somehow manages to get into trouble a lot–whether it’s with her teachers, classmates, or best friend, Josefina. Her magical powers are too much to handle, until one day, they disappear. Manu and Josefina try to get them back, but in doing so, make a choice with consequences far worse than any detention. Their friendship is strong, but are Manu and Josefina powerful enough to make things right?

Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández (List Price: $24.99, Graphix, 9781338264197, 10/19/2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang

With The Burning God, R.F. Kuang brings her Poppy War trilogy to a thunderously satisfying conclusion. Full scale war and destruction has come to the land of Nikan and Rin must once again rise to the challenge of saving her people without succumbing to her ever growing desires for power and revenge. Not many fantasies truly put a focus on the genocide, loss, and psychological damage that war brings to its victims but Kuang weaves these intricately into her story of godly abilities and conquest; loss and death always come hand in hand with victory. Kuang’s strong eye for character development is once again the shining star of the novel and readers who have been following since book one will have a hard time saying goodbye. A truly great modern fantasy trilogy and one that I look forward to recommending for years to come.

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang (List Price: $26, Harper Voyager, 9780062662620, 11/17/2020)

Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger

Simon’s life goal is to be an Animist–someone who can call on beings from the shadow realm adjacent to theirs to do good and keep the peace–but he’s not a very good one. When a town’s request for help goes unanswered by the Animists in charge, Simon decides to take matters into his own hands and sets off to deal with the monster–whom he discovers is actually a girl named Alice who doesn’t remember how she became a monster. Simon and Alice join forces to search out the secrets in Alice’s past, and in so doing find secrets that affect Simon and their whole world. A dark middle-grade fantasy that will appeal to fans of Kelly Barnhill, about identity and finding your self worth.

Cathedral of Bones by A. J. Steiger (List Price: $16, HarperCollins, 9780062934796, February, 2021)

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

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder

A. K. Wilder creates a delightful world of savants and phantoms: creatures made to serve those who call them. Ash is a non-savant who somehow gets the attention of phantoms that aren’t even supposed to acknowledge her when she doesn’t have a phantom of her own. Marcus is the heir to the throne Ash serves and she follows him to the mysterious island of Aku where he must tame his own powerful phantom. Their guide to Aku, Kaylin, has his own secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder (List Price: $18.99, Entangled: Teen, 9781640634145, 1/5/2021)

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

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

If you’ve ever wondered if an adult book could be written to be accessible to not just YA but middle grade readers too, wonder no longer: the book of your dreams is here. Across the Green Grass Fields is a wonderful coming-of-age story with all the mandatory trappings: bullying, parental oversight, unicorns, evil queens, and an intersex main character. It’s Tanith Lee rewriting Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. This standalone novella is a wonderful entrance to the Hooflands, and I can’t wait to double back and read more.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (List Price: $19.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213594, 1/12/2021)

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

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This had me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. If you love Greek mythology you will love this! Every seven years, nine Greek gods must walk the earth as mortals and the descendants of Ancient Bloodlines hunt them to steal their powers and immortality. Lore ran away from this world when her family was brutally murdered by a rival line. But she comes across her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena before a hunt, and after binding her fate with Athena, she enters the hunt to fight a new god and to avenge her family and save her home: New York City.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (List Price: $18.99, Disney-Hyperion, 9781484778203, 1/5/2021)

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

The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski

Valeria may have not been trapped by the mystical freeze that stole her family and village away but she never really escaped. She realizes this is true when she’s blackmailed into returning with her best friend she thought she’d lost the year before. In order to earn his freedom and her own, she must go back to the cursed village and hope to survive once more. This story was fantastic! Twisty and terrifying, I tore through it at a ridiculously fast pace. I can’t wait for the next installment!

The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062871503, 3/2/2021)

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

Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Albert’s fairytales are filled with the dark beauty and decay of withering roses and fog-filled forests. Many of them are nightmare-inducing but all of them are too enthralling to put down and I wondered if Albert may have bespelled me herself; her prose is that good. Tales from the Hinterland is for girls too covered in thorns for a traditional tale and for all who dream of a dark starless sky.

Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (List Price: $19.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250302724, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Ash is a typical white All-American football-playing teen. Then he gets tackled into another dimension, and has to confront issues he’s never directly faced before. From homophobia to racism, sexism to privilege, Ash gets a crash course on every hard-hitting issue we face today. This is an important and timeless tale about perceiving a world beyond your own.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman (List Price: $17.95, Quill Tree Books, 9780061998676, 2/9/2021)

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

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

The final volume in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series is here and it did not disappoint! The world of Emberfall and Syhl Shallow are set to go to war as Rhen grapples with the sorceress who won’t stay dead and Grey realizes he might have to fight his own brother. The story is split between four points of view and we get to see Harper and Lia Mara’s struggles as well. I received an early reader’s copy of A Vow so Bold and Deadly and I enjoyed every breathless second! The writing was just as captivating as the first two and there were so many adorable swoon-worthy moments squeezed in between the political intrigue and struggles of these new young rulers. I devoured the first two books just as quickly as I did this one, but I already find myself eager to reread the entire series as a whole. This story started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but became its own unique story with fantastic twists and turns to keep any reader satiated and satisfied by the end. I would recommend this story for anyone who enjoyed the first two as well as those who enjoy some political intrigue with their romance.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (List Price: $18.99, Bloomsbury YM, 9781547602582, 1/12/2021)

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

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

I… adore this series, and the finale was no different. After book two where I was left terrified for Rhen and Harper, since I still love them more than I could ever love Gray and Lia Mara, I wondered how in the world book three could end happily. Somehow–I say that as if I didn’t trust Brigid entirely–she did it! It was bittersweet, but it was beautiful. I adore Harper still, that headstrong, beautiful girl who doesn’t take Rhen’s nonsense. And Rhen! My wonderful, selfless, traumatized boy. Their POVs mixed with Gray and Lia Mara just worked out so perfectly I wasn’t left wanting at all. Everything wrapped up so wonderfully and honestly, I would love to have another book set years later to see the aftermath, if Brigid was so kind as to give us that.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (List Price: $18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547602582, 1/26/2021)

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

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

There isn’t another writer out there like Kristin Cashore. Her gift for capturing the inner pain and struggle of a character is unfathomable in its depth. Everyone who loved Bitterblue will be thrilled to see how her character has grown into a brilliant queen, and it’s a thrill to be back with Giddon and Hava, too. Most important, readers are going to fall in love with Lovisa, a conflicted daughter of Winterkeep torn between the truth she desperately wishes to hide from and her moral compass. This isn’t even mentioning the telepathic foxes, mysterious sea creatures, and expansive world-building that Cashore weaves into the story. I’m delighted with this new book in my favorite fantasy realm and have no doubt readers new and old will be too.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (List Price: $19.99, Dial Books, 9780803741508, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic is an own-voices magical realism story about two Gullah Geechee twins, Jezebel and Jay, who start to learn rootwork from their uncle after their grandmother’s passing in 1963. A perfect blend of historical fiction, supernatural fantasy, and a classic story of family and friendship, ROOT MAGIC will capture readers, teleporting them to the mysterious marsh inhabited by supernatural beings. Scarier than hags, though, is a local white police officer who has taken to threatening the Turner family. Luckily, Jezebel’s growing affinity for rootwork may save the day. This magical book is sure to be one of my favorites for young readers!

Root Magic by Eden Royce (List Price: $16.99, Walden Pond Press, 9780062899576, 1/5/2021)

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

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Poston delivers a unique new fantasy world in Among the Beasts & Briars, and I am here for it! Aloriya has been safe and prosperous for hundreds of years, kept safe by the crown worn by their ruler. But when the king dies and his daughter isn’t crowned for a few days as she mourns, their world is put into peril. Cerys, the gardener’s daughter and best friend to the princess, is cursed from the forbidden wood that borders Aloriya, and it’s up to her to save them all.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

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

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

I absolutely adore this clever, cozy, flower-dotted novel that manages to be gentle and whimsical and yet serve up scenes of truly spine-tingling eldritch horror. Written in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones and featuring the absolute Very Best Fox of young adult literature, this is a story that spans the gap between middle grade and adult fantasy readers. I would recommend this to fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and An Enchantment of Ravens equally, and I cannot wait to read more Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

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

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This is the perfect book to curl up with a blanket and a warm drink! Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful story and setting is the epitome of cozy. Each character feels so real, with universal problems surrounding love, family, and growing older. The magic of time travel, and the magic of getting to say what they really feel, makes this a soul-satisfying story. The desire to make things right with our loved ones is a universal impulse. Everything about Before the Coffee Gets Cold is fun and true.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (List price: $19.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335430991, November 2020).

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

This is an impressive sophomore novella that breathes new life into campfire stories and oral history. In a mystical world of tiger shifters and deadly mammoths, one cleric must bargain for their life with a folk tale. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain is a story of cultural exchange and a question of who pens history. It’s powerful, compelling, and downright enchanting.

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (List price: $15.99, Tordotcom, 9781250786135, December 2020), recommended by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

This is the start of a brilliant new middle grade fantasy series. Move over, Harry Potter. It’s time for some #blackgirlmagic. This was a super fun read but also touches on racism and class issues with a deft hand. Can’t wait for the next one!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston (List Price: $1.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062975164, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tordotcom | 9781250767028
October 13, 2020

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror


In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

Eventide by Sarah Goodman

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tor Teen | 9781250224736
October 6, 2020

An evocative YA historical fantasy thriller by debut author Sarah Goodman, for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray


Wheeler, Arkansas, 1907

When their father descends into madness after the death of their mother, Verity Pruitt and her little sister Lilah find themselves on an orphan train to rural Arkansas.

In Wheeler, eleven-year-old Lilah is quickly adopted, but seventeen-year-old Verity is not. Desperate to stay close to her sister, Verity indentures herself as a farmhand. But even charming farm boy Abel Atchley can’t completely distract her from the sense that something is not quite right in this little town. Strange local superstitions abound, especially about the eerie old well at the center of the forest. The woods play tricks, unleashing heavy fog and bone-chilling cold…and sometimes visions of things that aren’t there.

But for Verity, perhaps most unsettling of all is the revelation that her own parents have a scandalous history in this very town. And as she tries to unearth the past, sinister secrets come with it—secrets that someone will go to violent lengths to protect…

A haunting tale of long-buried secrets, small-town scandal, and single-minded vengeance by talented debut novelist Sarah Goodman.

Soulswift by Megan Bannen

This beautifully bittersweet stand alone asks “what would you do if your entire reason for being was built on lies? Your religion, your existence, all of it. Well. Most of it.” Our two main characters follow a terribly sad path where they find their own bits of hope, all leading to an, as I said, bittersweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building within this book, and would not be disappointed if Megan returned at any point later, following other characters.

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 11/17/2020)
Recommended by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders

If you live near the Glistening Isles and/or Whisperwood then you know that just about any challenge you encounter might involve creatures whose names reflect their true dispositions, or at least what they let you see. This includes a Night Mare named Midnight and a Unicorn named Curious. You will also recognize that unicorns are becoming scarce, as they are hunted for the medicinal properties in their horns. The biggest threat to the unicorns, as well to other magical creatures and all living creatures, really, was that humans either no longer believed or just did not care. Eventually, something was bound to happen…

Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders (List Price $16.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford MS.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.

If you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

A beautifully dark and lush novella about family and the secrets we keep. Set in rural (and slightly fantastical) Queensland, Flyaway is evocatively written, full of razor sharp edges and lonely, dusty roads. Jenning’s writing has a unique lyrical rhythm to it that immediately grabbed me and her gorgeous hand-cut illustrations that accompany every chapter sealed the deal. An entrancing and unforgettable debut.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (List price: $19.99, TOR), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Our differences should never be hidden as a means of conformity, but fully embraced for their powerful ability to make us unique individuals. It’s a simple sentiment, if not a tired one, but TJ Klune has a magical power that allows him to breathe new, exhilarating life into that simplicity. With The House in the Cerulean Sea, he has skillfully crafted a contemporary fable filled with humor, wit, overwhelming delight, and some of the most colorfully drawn characters I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting in a book. Positively queer and heartfelt, you’ll find that TJ Klune is a brilliant writer and a masterful storyteller.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (List price: $18.99, Tor Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

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