The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fiction

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

The story of family and how lives intersect over time, Signal Fires is a quiet portrait of neighbors who lived near a 500-year-old oak tree during a large chunk of their lives. How those in the two families live and people chose to intersect or not to, choose to acknowledge weakness or tragedy- or do not- as they move through lives stages and across the country are central to this novel.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593534724, October 2022)

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Issunboshi by Ryan Lang

“You don’t need to be a hero to take a stand against evil and fight for good in this world, that is how you become one.” This quote from the graphic novel embodies this story to perfection. The story is gripping and the art work is drawn to perfection. This graphic novel is perfect for any Japanese Manga or Anime fan. When the world began the gods sent down then heavenly spear to create the world. After the land was created, the gods separated the spear into parts. Three belonged to the earth: the trees, the flowers, and the stone. The fourth part is the spirit of the spear, the essence of life itself, stayed in the air. When a great mountain ogre, the Oni, accidentally discovers one of the three earthly pieces of the spear, he becomes obsessed to gain the power of the spear, and release the world of the dead. The only hope for the world is the spirit of the spear. To save the world and stop the Oni, he comes to earth to a lonely couple beseeching the gods for a son. The only challenge is that he is no bigger than your thumb. How can someone so small defeat a powerful Oni? It will take courage, training, and friends.

Issunboshi by Ryan Lang, (List Price: $34.99, Oni Press, 9781637150818, October 2022)

Reviewed by Gretchen Shuler, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead is a brilliant retelling of the David Copperfield story from the perspective of the poor son of a teenage mother living in rural Appalachia. From the first sentence, Demon’s voice grabs us and takes us on an unforgettable journey through his early life. This novel about a resilient boy develops empathy for families and children so frequently dismissed in the national discourse. It is a masterful American story

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, (List Price: $32.50, Harper, 9780063251922, October 2022)

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Which Side Are You On is a dialogue-heavy book with prose that is sharp, thought-provoking, and humorous at times. The reader sees the subjects of race, policing, politics, & privilege through the eyes of a young activist as he pries into his parents’ own personal history of activism in their younger days. Filled with interesting anecdotes and hard-learned lessons, this book shows that sometimes personal growth is best attained through deep conversation and self-reflection.

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong, (List Price: $24, Catapult, 9781646221486, October 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

There is something that happens when you take an age old trope (age-gap or best friend’s dad) and make it queer that breathes new life into the story. So many chili peppers for this book. Sheesh.

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner, (List Price: $16.99, St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250841001, October 2022)

Reviewed by Katie Garaby, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

A thought-provoking and riveting look at the difference between keeping things secret and keeping things private. Mad Honey is told in alternating voices and timelines by Olivia, the mother of Asher, and Lily, Asher’s new to town girlfriend. Both Olivia and Lily are familiar with starting over. Olivia by leaving an abusive husband and Lily by moving for her last year of high school. When Lily is found dead, all eyes focus on Asher as a likely suspect. The layers of both Lily and Olivia’s lives are revealed as the investigation and trial bring long-held secrets to light. This is a page-turner that will leave you wondering how far you would go to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult, (List Price: $29.99, Ballantine Books, 9781984818386, October 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Jane Michels, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw

Aleen Cust was born an English noblewoman in 1868 but developed a love for animals and a strong desire to be educated and become a veterinary surgeon. This ambition was unheard of in a woman, and it resulted in her mother and her siblings shunning her for life. Despite her family’s hatred of her desire to be educated and many societal obstacles , Aleen successfully trained in Scotland but was prohibited from qualifying because of her sex. She persisted in the field working with an Irish vet, Willie Byrne, with whom she developed an intense love relationship. She practiced veterinary science for 22 years before she was granted her diploma. Where would women be today if not for the brave, independent women who paved the path?

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728257709, October 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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

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