The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fiction

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words, combining laugh-out-loud wit with unexpected pathos. I gobbled up Shrines of Gaiety – which features a motley crew of characters in 1920s London, including a nightclub boss, a chief inspector intent on weeding out corruption in the police, a teenage runaway in search of fame, and a former WW1 nurse in search of said missing teenager – in just a couple of days. Recommended.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, (List Price: $29, Doubleday, 9780385547970, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Witches by Brenda Lozano

Witches, by Mexican writer Brenda Lozano, features quite possibly the most distinctive voice I’ve come across in fiction this year. Feliciana’s narrative, recounting her life as an indigenous healer – or curandera – is hypnotic, elliptical and utterly absorbing. Her story intertwines with that of Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City sent to report on the death of Paloma, Feliciana’s muxe – or third gender – cousin. Their stories combine to highlight the struggles of women striving to be true to themselves and to find their own voices.

Witches by Brenda Lozano, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220687, August 2022)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm reads like smooth jazz music, with a full cast of interlocking characters creating a complex harmony that I could not get enough of. Circus Palmer is our main character, an aging and floundering jazz musician who charms and cheats on the women in his life. Never have I wanted so badly to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into him! The women truly take center stage in this story, loved and abandoned by Circus in turns. The narrative was full of angst, but the ending was sweet and redemptive. Fans of Luster and Red At The Bone will love this one.

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell, (List Price: $28, Pantheon, 9780593316443, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector

These animal stories are masterpieces of skill in the narratorial voice, shining jewel-like displays of how much characterization can be snuck in the smallest choices in diction. Lispector is like Thurber and Saint-Exupery in that she can write a story as enthralling for children as adults.

The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector, (List Price: $17.95, New Directions, 9780811229609, September 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt

A tight, Talented Mr. Ripley-esque mini-thriller where the thrill is in the revelation of the narrator’s psyche through her circumstances. And it has a biting critique of the publishing industry! Helen DeWitt runs away with this priceless gem: a literary thriller that is as exciting as it is intelligent and can be read in an afternoon.

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, (List Price: $17.95, New Directions, 9780811230070, August 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes

My favorite Julian Barnes books feature an unremarkable protagonist who attempts to decode the words and actions of a different, more complicated character; the author thereby offers insight into his own process of character creation, from the outside in. Elizabeth Finch is the apotheosis of this type of Barnes book. A former student tries to understand the life of a recently deceased scholar who was his teacher and then friend. Along the way, we are treated to a lengthy essay about Julian the Apostate, which perhaps is offered as a key for us to encode the life of Julian the Author. I thought of Julian, and how the centuries had interpreted and reinterpreted him, like a man walking across a stage pursued by different-coloured spotlights… Well, getting our history wrong is part of being a person.

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes, (List Price: $26, Knopf, 9780593535431, August 2022)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn

Bernie and Chet stories can seem deceptively simple. Chet’s narration from a dog’s point of view provides humor but insights on how narrow human perspectives can be. Bernie’s ethical code and generosity are lessons in how to be a better human. All this comes into play as the duo seek to help a high school classmate fallen on hard times. Running underneath the mystery is a happy love interest for Bernie and the complications of Trixie for Chet.

Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn, (List Price: $26.99, Forge Books, 9781250843272, August 2022)

Reviewed by Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood has quickly worked her way to being a favorite Romance author, for myself and many other readers. Mixing STEM, Feminism and romance is her recipe for her superb romances. Love on the Brain follows Bee, a strong willed and smart scientist as she embarks on a project partnered with NASA that just might turn her career around. An awful break-up changed the course of her career choices previously, but she is back stronger then ever about to show her stuff! However, her college nemesis Levi ends up being her partner for this project. You don’t have to be a science lover to appreciate Bee’s resilience in a male dominated career and to enjoy her nerdy, flirty, and powerful love story unfold.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: $17.00, Berkley, 9780593336847,  August 2022)

Reviewed by Lillian Kay, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

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

The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas

An idyllic cottage for the couple in number 9 turns out to be anything but idyllic when two bodies are uncovered in the garden during some remodeling. Rose, the original owner of the cottage is now in her late seventies and living in a care home with dementia. Her granddaughter Saffie, who is expecting her first child, and Saffie’s husband Tom were thrilled when given the cottage by Saffie’s mother Lorna. Little did any of them know that their remodeling would uncover and bring to light many unanswered questions from the past. Why didn’t Lorna know her mother owned this cottage? Why did Rose never talk about Lorna’s father other than to say he died before he was born? Who was Rose’s mysterious boarder and what happened to her? Why did Lorna always seem to be running away from something? Who is the man who claims to be a PI and says that Rose has evidence his client wants and will use force if necessary to obtain it? And of course – who were the people buried in the garden and what happened to them? Told from several points of view and several time frames Douglas is an expert at slowly feeding you information while at the same time leaving you with many new questions. All of the information finally comes together in a twisty ending you won’t see coming.

The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas, (List Price: $16.99, Harper Paperbacks, 9780063138148,  August 2022)

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

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

An August 2022 Read This Next! Title

Badass woman in science, CHECK. STEM setting with real life issues, CHECK. Huge, hot, *secretly pining* fellow scientist with off-the-charts chemistry with said badass woman in science, CHECK. We have all the components of another supremely satisfying steamy STEM romance by Ali Hazelwood. I loved Love on the Brain!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593336847, August 2022)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah

Here’s how you take a great sin–maybe The great sin–and particularize it so that our minds can grasp it. The Germans and the British and the Portuguese and the Dutch (and now, of course, the US and China and ad nauseam)–all of these governments have, at one time or another, wanted to get their hands on Africa–really get in there–all the way in–and do what they want to it. Gurnah and his magical Nobel Prize-winning pen tells us the story of a family battered by the complexities of colonialism and their risings and fallings and re-risings. Deep, satisfying, horrifying, wonderful.

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9780593541883, August 2022)

Reviewed by Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Project Namahana by John Teschner

This is the best mystery/thriller I’ve read yet set in Hawaii. Instead of concentrating on Honolulu and all the other touristy places Mr. Teschner takes us into the out of the way places, the homesteads and small towns, where the locals live and depend on jobs offered by big corporations who put profit before people everyday. He introduces us to the people, their patois and, most of all, their closeness as they rely on each other, in this case after three boys die swimming in a supposedly clean stream, to do what the authorities won’t.

Project Namahana by John Teschner, (List Price: $27.99, Forge Books, 9781250827197, June 2022)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Murata, author of the 2016 indie hit Convenience Store Woman, is back with a collection of weird and weirdly relatable short stories. Cannibalism! Alien bodies! Distant worlds! Getting older, and more alone! These and other strange subjects are blown up to speak about the fundamental problems of living today. I especially loved "Hatchling," a story reminiscent of Osamu Dazai’s classic "No Longer Human," but with a feminist sensibility. Life Ceremony further cements Sayaka Murata as one of the world’s most interesting contemporary writers.

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802159588, July 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Scroll to Top