The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!


Spotlight On: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree


Travis Baldree, photo by author

Initially, my plan for both [Viv and Tandry] was that they would simply build a supportive, essential friendship and that Viv’s recognition of the value of that relationship was key to her new life. That strengthened over the course of the story and became what it is now, and it felt inevitable to me. It isn’t a romance, really – it’s a friendship that evolved into something more. The book is largely about quiet acts of bravery that don’t involve a sword – and the leap from friendship to romantic relationship was one of Viv’s last brave acts. The kind of risk that most of us can relate to.
― Travis Baldree Interview, Hunger Mountain

Bookshops & Bonedust byTravis Baldree

What booksellers are saying about Bookshops & Bonedust

  • Baldree does it again! I was positively enchanted with this story, just as I was with Legends & Lattes. Seeing Viv in this stage of her life, so different from her time establishing a coffee shop, was a treat. The bookshop setting was perfect, the plight of a bookseller just trying her hardest to get books into the hands of readers utterly relatable. A fantastic read for cozy fantasy lovers!
      ― Hannah Kerbs, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books

  • This book is so DELICIOUSLY COZY that it CURED my common cold—or at the very least it warmed me all the way up, gave me a kiss on the forehead, and made me feel a whole lot better! Wounded in her first venture as a mercenary, a young Viv washes up in a seaside town with a ramshackle bookshop and ends up finding fiction, friendship, first love, the mutually enriching relationship between small businesses and their community, and a little badass bone-busting adventure along the way! It’s hard to believe, but I loved Bookshops & Bonedust even more than Legends & Lattes and literally hugged this book when I finished it.
      ― Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • This was a rare stand alone prequel that adds so much to the first book, Bookshops and Bonedust has all the cozy vibes and action I had come to expect from Legends and Lattes. There’s a loveable animal companion, a frazzled bookshop owner, a baker of fine treats, and a necromancer lurking somewhere in the background. If you were wondering why a mercenary orc would want to open a coffee shop, read this, maybe with a nice cup of coffee of your own. This book is the perfect example of there’s a right book for every time, and a right time for every book. Super cozy, super well written (and narrated) Travis has definitely made himself an instant buy author for me after these last two slam dunks.
      ― Charlotte Beck, Main Street Reads in Summerville, SC | Buy from Main Street Reads

About Travis Baldree

Travis Baldree (he/him) is a full-time audiobook narrator who has lent his voice to hundreds of stories. Before that, he spent decades designing and building video games like Torchlight, Rebel Galaxy, and Fate. Apparently, he now also writes books. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his very patient family and their small, nervous dog.


Spotlight On: African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction


Editors, Africa Risen

Writing and editing is a very cultural thing. Identity plays a huge role in how we process stories, how we tell stories, and how we receive them. It puts us at very different places. It requires a lot of trust and respect….that is also the beauty and the strength of the anthology. This anthology has everything.
― Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

I know some people have a zero sum idea of the world, everybody’s competition, right? But I have found a lot of times you thrive more when you say, hey., we’re going up against something much bigger ― the white-dominated publishing space ― and if we work together we can make a lot more of a difference.
― Zelda Knight

Working with the magazine in fantasy and science fiction, I’m more aware than ever that I’m also, as an editor, in the world of dream making. I’m making people’s oldest childhood-rooted dreams come true
― Sharee Renée Thomas Interview, SFF Addicts

African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Zelda Knight

What booksellers are saying about African Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction

  • An expert array of predominantly science fiction stories, all of which explore Black narratives, with many utilizing African mythology and lore. They are each so unique and groundbreaking in their narratives; you’ll find something for everyone in this collection!
      ― Mallory Sutton, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna, VA | Buy from Bards Alley

  • A collection of short stories, in the speculative genre, focusing on the imagination of Africa. I first heard about this book shortly after hearing about Africa is Not a Country (a book that reminds the reader(s) that the many nations make the continent bright and that colonialism isn’t the end-all of Africa. The stories bounce between sci-fi and fantasy and some feel like a perfect blend of both genres. This is a wonderful book to give to someone who is new to speculative fiction or even an oldhead like myself!
      ― Hilton Airall, Carmichaels Bookstore in Louisville, KY | Buy from Carmichaels

About the editors

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki - photo from authorOghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an award-winning speculative fiction writer, editor and publisher from Nigeria. He edited the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology, the Bridging Worlds anthology and co-edited the Dominion anthology

Zelda Knight - Alton Strupp_Courier JournalZelda Knight is an award-winning author, editor and bookseller. She co-edited the Dominion anthology, and has written numerous short stories and science fiction/romance series and books.

Sheree Renée Thomas - photo from authorSheree Renée Thomas is an award-winning author, editor and poet. Her works include the Dark Matter anthology, Nine Bar Blues, the Marvel novel Black Panther: Panther’s Rage, the story “Timebox Altar(ed)” in Janelle Monáe’s collection The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer and much more.


Spotlight On: A Power Unbound by Freya Marske


Freya Marske, photo credit Kris Arnold

I am writing romance; all of my characters end up happily in love. I am writing fantasy with intrigue; frankly, the characters don’t have time for too much agonizing. They have conspiracies to unravel, and— to veer abruptly sideways into musical theatre (I am queer, after all) and quote Pippin—magic to do.

I made the very conscious decision to scrap crises of faith, uncertainty of one’s sexuality, and self-hatred entirely. I used the need for secrecy to add to the ‘us against the world’ situation that serves a romance plot so well, and also to emphasize the exquisite surprise and delight when a kindred spirit is recognized.
― Freya Marske, Interview, FyneTime

A Power Unbound by Freya Marske

What booksellers are saying about A Power Unbound

  • *Chef’s Kiss* I was really looking forward to Hawthorn’s story and it didn’t disappoint. Marske is such an exquisite writer, deft with her succinct and evocative descriptions! It was great also getting to see the moments with the other two couples as well.
      ― Angela Trigg, The Haunted Bookshop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Bookshop

  • An absolutely delightful and riveting end to the trilogy, one that made me overcome my general aversion to e-books so that I could read this immediately. It was everything I could have hoped for and more, providing us with the much-needed perspectives of Jack and Alan. They race against time, their powerful enemies, and the rising sexual tension as the Last Contract comes closer to its end. Both deliciously queer and wholly enthralling, I’ll never not recommend this trilogy.
      ― Jordan April, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • This was the perfect ending to a fabulous trilogy. More of Lord Hawthorne is exactly what I needed in my life.
      ― Melissa Taylor from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA | Buy from E. Shaver

  • A satisfying conclusion to Marske’s Last Binding trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories that have a little something for everyone (historical, mystery, fantasy, romance).
      ― Melissa Oates from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

About Freya Marske

Freya Marske is the author of A Power Unbound, A Restless Truth, and A Marvellous Light, which was an international bestseller and won the Romantic Novel Award for Fantasy. Her work has appeared in Analog and has been shortlisted for three Aurealis Awards. She is also a Hugo-nominated podcaster and won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. She lives in Australia.


Spotlight On: Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone


Lyndall Clipstone, photo credit the author

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.
― Lyndall Clipstone, Interview, Geeks Out

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

What booksellers are saying about Unholy Terrors

  • A Monsterous boy and a fierce girl, Clipstone delivers another beautiful YA gothic fantasy. From the moment we first cross through the bone wall with Evie, to traveling through the moorland with Ravel, and facing down the Thousandfold. Clipstone takes us on a journey that feels like a Studio Ghibli film crossed with a horror movie. A gripping family legacy that makes you question everything that happens to Evie, is it fate that Evie and Ravel journey together or is it a curse? A curse that has Haunted Evie since before she was born.
      ― Cass W, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC | Buy from The Country Book Shop

  • Clipstone’s Unholy Terrors takes us to a Wuthering Heights-esque setting, wildly beautiful in its ruin, and drops us off with only the honey and ash prose we fell in love with in her Lake’s Edge duology to guard our hearts and souls against the monsters of truth and generational loyalty that howl in the Thousandfold. A beautiful and haunting read for fans of transforming girls and kissable monsters.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Unholy Terrors is the perfect gothic romance fantasy for all your October spooky season needs. For fans of Crimson Peak and Labyrinth and every dark, haunted thing that deserves to be kissed and killed and brought back again. For the ghastly, and the horrifying, and still beautiful despite it all. Unholy Terrors is perfect, full stop.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Lyndall Clipstone

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She has a bachelors in creative writing and a graduate diploma in library and information management. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.


Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

As someone who has always been a little too soft for the world, nothing delights me more than living vicariously through fierce and hard as nail protagonists like Opal. Opal is fighting every day to make sure her brother doesn’t go without in the town of Eden. Despite barely having time to think, Opal begins to dream of Starling House, the Secret that no one talks about, and even though she knows better, she finds herself at the front door. Arthur is going to be the last warden of the Starling House, taking its legacy of monsters and magic down with him. He’s determined to be so until Opal breaks down the walls around his heart with her knock at Starling House’s door. This is a story of two people who are less than beautiful that smile with crooked teeth and black eyes, and I didn’t want it to end.

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow, (List Price: $28.99, Tor Books, 9781250799050, October 2023)

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

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

Blood Debts is a magical novel about reckoning- societal reckoning, familial reckoning, and personal reckoning. Clem and Cris Trudeau are practitioners of Generational magic, magic derived from the moon and the power of their ancestors. Their family has been torn apart, their connection to magic is unstable at best, and they don’t trust anyone, least of all themselves. Clem and Cris are furious at the injustice their family has been handed- from the violent lynchings of their grandparents, to the racist anti-magic laws being debated in New Orleans, to the recent murder of their father, to the way white vultures keep trying to appropriate Generational magic. Blood Debts handles all of these difficult, emotional topics with care and still gives these teenagers space to experience being kids. Dramatic friendship breakups, sibling bickering, and the beauty of queer, Black love add even more layers to this breathtaking tale. Pursue answers, love, and most importantly, justice, with Clem and Cris in Blood Debts… you won’t be sorry.

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker, (List Price: 18.99, Tor Teen, 9781250825926, April 2023)

Reviewed by Julia Hirschfield, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

With Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo created a perfect blend of tense, tightly-plotted action and bold character work. The impossible heist the narrative centers around is exciting, and Bardugo’s magical setting sets her plot apart from other heist stories. Her six protagonists, all of whom have their own compelling reasons to agree to such a dangerous job, are dense and rich, and their dynamics with each other are definitely the novel’s greatest strength. The dialogue is sharp and the budding romances are impossible to not root for. Fans of fantasy, romance, mysteries, thrillers, and character dramas will absolutely find something to like in Six of Crows.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, (List Price: $12.99, Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks, 9781250777904, April 2021)

Reviewed by Sam Edge, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic casts a spell! Can’t get enough witchy reads? Me neither! It has all the good things, family, true love, magic, and mystery. Get ready for spooky season with a great read.

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall, (List Price: $18.99, Alcove Press, 9781639105731, September 2023)

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

Spotlight on: Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare


Cassandra Clare, photo credit Cassandra Clare

Usually for me, the first thing that comes in a story is the characters, and then the story weaves itself around them. With Sword Catcher, for the first time the people and the place came at the same time, in a sort of burst of images and color…from the beginning of my working on it, Sword Catcher has been a story about adults rather than about teenagers, so it was always going to be an adult fantasy.

The big difference to me is that in YA, your characters are working on problems of identity: What kind of person am I? What are my values? What does it mean to love someone new? But the characters in Sword Catcher are in their early twenties, and they’re facing a different question: What does it mean to take on the responsibilities of adulthood?
― Cassandra Clare, Interview, Paste Magazine

Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare

What booksellers are saying about Sword Catcher

  • Get ready to be pulled headfirst into a beautiful, rich world full of life, magic, and history. In Sword Catcher, concepts of identity and loyalty take on new life with characters who are viciously human. (Not to mention, there’s a very healthy dose of spice.) You’ll fall in love with Cassandra Clare all over again.
      ― Tori Finklea, Union Ave Books in Knoxville, TN | Buy from Union Ave Books

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Clare’s foray into the adult book world. Sword Catcher is a fantasy of rich city-states, magic inspired by Jewish mysticism, and characters who find themselves in tangled webs of secrets and loyalty. I was absolutely TICKLED by Lin and Conor’s banter, and appreciated how much character depth Clare gave to Kel. The ending about did me in so I cannot wait for The Ragpicker King.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • I’m utterly obsessed with this book, but, who is surprised! I grew up reading Cassandra Clare, and now here I am as an adult, getting to read her adult debut, a masterwork of world building and beautiful respect for her own history woven through the pages. The queernormativity makes it even more beautiful, setting the stage for every reader to feel comfortable and at home as they dive into a world that promises adventure, love, and lore that begs you to get lost in it. Sword Catcher is brilliant- the next unstoppable force of nature in the world of adult fantasy.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare is the author of the #1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestselling Shadowhunter Chronicles. She is also the coauthor of the bestselling fantasy series Magisterium with Holly Black. The Shadowhunter Chronicles have been adapted as both a major motion picture and a television series. Her books have more than fifty million copies in print worldwide and have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Cassandra lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and three fearsome cats.


The Forest Grimm by Kathryn Purdie

Since I started this book I have been completely hooked. I am a big fan of Bon Crier’s Moon Duology but this one has taken first place as enrapturing, fantastical and captivating for me. I LOVE these characters and the way in which it spins off of fairytales. The spin on the fairytales are so unique. I absolutely love the use and importance of Red Rampion and how it ties into the fairytale retellings. I also love the plot in this book, how it tells not only a journey of a group of friends but a growth of the friends and how they have to deal with truth, loss, pain and hardship. I already CANNOT wait to find out what happens next and how they will (hopefully) break the Curse of the Grimm Forest. I could go on and on about this book but mostly I’ll just say, if you aren’t planning on reading this you are missing out on the journey of a life time and the most unique retelling of the classic fairytales I have ever heard of.

The Forest Grimm by Kathryn Purdie, (List Price: 20, Wednesday Books, 9781250873002, September 2023)

Reviewed by Charlotte Beck, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

Clipstone’s Unholy Terrors takes us to a Wuthering Heights-esque setting, wildly beautiful in its ruin, and drops us off with only the honey and ash prose we fell in love with in her Lake’s Edge duology to guard our hearts and souls against the monsters of truth and generational loyalty that howl in the Thousandfold. A beautiful and haunting read for fans of transforming girls and kissable monsters.

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone, (List Price: $19.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250887733, January 2023)

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

All That Consumes Us by Erica Waters

An October Read This Next! Book

Erica Waters never disappoints with her dark and queer tales. I loved every bit of this dark academia story. I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t stop reading. Don’t let this one pass you by!

All That Consumes Us by Erica Waters, (List Price: $19.99, HarperTeen, 9780063115965, October 2023)

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

Night of the Witch by Sara Raasch

My favorite aspect of this book is the way magic works in this world. It takes inspiration from paganism and I love how this book shows the real aspects of witchcraft through fantasy. It’s always very refreshing to see a book portray magic in a way that showcases real traditions and spiritual beliefs. I also loved how this book also stayed true to the historical aspects of when it was written. Even though this is a fantasy it’s set in a world that reflects our own and it takes place in the Holy Roman Empire which means that a lot of history is strewn across the book. I also love how the book doesn’t back down from discussing some of the harsh realities that people had to face during the period, especially when it focused on the catholic church and how its reign murdered hundreds of innocent people by burning them at the stake. It criticized the way the church was corrupted at that time by mentioning how paying the church got on out of accusations, and how the people burned at the stake did nothing wrong, other than be accused. This is a topic that is not often talked about in books like these so it was nice to have such information acknowledged.I loved reading about how magic in this world was used. I’m excited to read more from this series and its authors.

Night of the Witch by Sara Raasch, (List Price: $18.99, Sourcebooks Fire, 9781728272160, October 2023)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Spotlight on: Lo que el río sabe por Isabel Ibáñez


Isabel Ibañez, photo credit the author

“Amo, amo, historias que cuentan del amor. Creo que más que nada, es la emoción detrás de cada palabra, cada personaje, cómo puede inspirar a alguien a sentir amor y dolor, y alegría y reír a carcajadas o llorar. Hay algo tan hermoso en escribir una historia con la que muchas personas pueden relacionarse o apreciar. Quiero ser escritor porque quiero vivir en mi imaginación, y no en ningún tipo de estructura. Escribir me permite acceder al pozo de mi creatividad y a menudo me sorprende.”

― Isabel Ibañez, Entrevista, American Writers Museum

What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

Lo que dicen los libreros de What the River Knows

  • Una carta de amor a la historia, más específicamente a la historia egipcia. Una hermosa ficción histórica con una pizca de magia y la romalidad más deliciosa que jamás hayas leído, y por la que estarás un poco traumatizado. Isabel sabe lo que está haciendo, y todo lo que usted como lector necesita hacer es confiar en ella.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Compra de Bookmarks

  • Inez Olivera tiene un toque de magia y un espíritu aventurero, pero va a necesitar más para sobrevivir a los peligros y engaños que rodean a sus padres perdidos. El ritmo rápido, muchos giros y personajes poco confiables, y un final de suspenso hacen de este un buen comienzo para una nueva serie.
      ― Jan Blodgett from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Compra de Main Street Books

  • “Primero, este libro fue una montaña rusa emocional que parecía que no podía dejar. La forma en que el autor escribió el personaje de Inez hizo que me gustara al instante. Cada personaje de la historia fue escrito con una personalidad tan única que las interacciones que tuvieron entre sí me hicieron querer más. En general, las mejores partes de esta historia fueron la forma en que las ambiciones, interacciones y deseos de los personajes fluyeron a través de la trama, haciendo que cada uno de ellos sea adorable (o extremadamente odiable). ¡No puedo esperar a la próxima!
      ― Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Compra de Page 158 Books

Sobre Isabel Ibañez

Isabel Ibañez es autora de Together We Burn (Wednesday Books) y Woven in Moonlight (Page Street), finalista del Premio William C. Morris, y figura entre los 100 mejores libros de fantasía de todos los tiempos de la revista Time. Ella es la orgullosa hija de inmigrantes bolivianos y tiene un profundo aprecio por la historia y los viajes. Actualmente vive en Asheville, Carolina del Norte, con su esposo, su adorable perro y una colección seria de libros. Manda tú saludo en las redes sociales en @IsabelWriter09.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Following Simon and his friends, Rowell’s fantasy centers their fight against the Insidious Humdrum, an evil that’s sucking magic out of the world and Simon is prophesied to defeat (and they’re trying to finish their last year of magic school at Watford). Featuring a ghost story, a love story, and an epic arc, this book has everything a book should have! Inviting queer characters to the forefront of the fight, Simon Snow discovers himself and his limitations, tackles his worst fears, copes with the trauma that comes with being Chosen, and falls in love, working through the pitfalls of a relationship built in the rubble of a war. His journey is incredibly poignant for anyone who has had to face their nightmare and came away scarred, only to discover that wasn’t the end of it. A wonderful, approachable, and shockingly personal fantasy trilogy that’s completely different from what you’d expect, Carry On stole my heart from the first page, and I hope it makes your heart sing the way it makes mine.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, (List Price: $19.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250806918, July 2021)

Reviewed by Shae Jordan, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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