The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fiction

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean

Bombshell picks up a new series where MacLean’s Scandals & Scoundrels series left off. Here, we have Secily, the most scandalous of her five sisters and the only one left un-wed. She’s been pining after Caleb, the business partner of one of her sisters for years. But right now, along with three other amazing woman, she’s taking down the men of the ton, one at a time. But when Caleb comes back from America and finds Secily at work, she isn’t sure what her next move should be. Bombshell has a kick-ass feminist heroine who does what she wants and helps others along the way. We should all be so amazing.

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean, (List Price: $8.99, Avon, 9780063056152, August 2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar

I just spent a guilt-free rainy day with these high calorific, double-stuffed short stories. Located within: A traffic jam turned tribal via survival, some playful narrator juggling, an escapist daydream that turns O. Henry into an R. Serling nightmare, and fiery relationships that literally burn to literal litter. Looking forward to more rain.

All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar, (List Price: 15.95, New Directions, 9780811229456, April 2020)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

It seems like an oxymoron, but The Final Girl Support group is a delightfully dark and very suspenseful thriller, both funny and really scary. It tells the story of six vastly different women–survivors from horrors we can only imagine–who as final girls have been in a support group for 16 years. And, then they start dying! The book pays homage to the slasher films of the 80s and 90s and even if you weren’t a fan of them, if you like Mission Impossible type escapes, and thrillers which go in totally unforeseeable directions (several times) then you will love this book.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, (List Price: $26.00, Berkley, 9780593201237, July 2021)

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

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

Everyone should have a little magic in their lives. This is a story of friendship between Bert and Lucy (and Lucy’s hero from her favorite book Nancy Drew). There’s a OUIJA board (the “spirit” board), a woman who sees into the future, and a missing body, all contributing to the lively imagination of these two best friends. Times are hard in 1943 North Carolina, but Bert and Lucy only see an opportunity to solve a great mystery. You will not want to stop reading once you begin this beautifully written story.

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728232744, 2021-07-27)

Reviewed by Karen Solar, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The robot Mosscap is the first to return from from the wilds to ask the question, “What do humans want?” The tea monk, despite their vocation of helping others by listening to problems while serving tea, feels unqualified to answer – and unmoored in their own life. This novella is an inspiring meditation on purpose and meaning set in an interesting world with a great first-contact frame.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, 2021-07-13)

Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Edge Case by YZ Chin

A thoughtful, incisive, sometimes upsetting look into marriage, immigration, and layered trauma. As Edwina faces the sudden absence of her husband, she also carries the fears of her years-long immigration process, not to mention sexual harassment at work, a mother whose obsession with Edwina’s weight has marked E permanently, and the question of her cultural identity. Chin weaves the complexities of these realities together seamlessly. Edwina moves from meditating on her husband’s strangeness before his departure, to the past-life stories her mom tells, to the mole on her cheek within paragraphs, but it all feels natural. It feels as though we are truly processing, grieving, seeking to understand with Edwina. A unique voice, clear-eyed and honest, while remaining soft to human pain, Chin has written a book somehow chilling and heart-warming at once.

Edge Case by YZ Chin, (List Price: 26.99, Ecco, 9780063030688, August 2021)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

Radiant Fugitives covers some big topics – LGBTQ politics, same-sex marriage, religion, Islamophobia, and the Obama campaign, to name just a few! – but it is at its heart an intimate novel, focusing on the ties that both bind families together and drive them apart. Seema, originally from India, has been estranged from her parents and younger sister for over 20 years, after she came out to her father. But the imminent arrival of her baby and her mother’s unspecified terminal illness brings together the three women of the family together for an opportunity for reconciliation. What follows is both tender and utterly heartbreaking – with an ending that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed, (List Price: 27, Counterpoint, 9781640094048, August 2021)

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

All’s Well by Mona Awad

Miranda Fitch is in agony following a fall that ended her illustrious acting career. When a trio of strange men offers her a method of ridding herself of her pain, she discovers that accepting Faustian bargains come at a brutal and bloody price. Miranda is both deeply relatable and monstrous; her transformation from victim, to villain, to something in between was a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. As with Mona Awad’s first book, Bunny, All’s Well is a quirky, original work that relies heavily on internal monologues and deep characterization – sometimes tilting away from the plot slightly, as the ending of the novel falters somewhat under the weight of Miranda’s unreliable narration. Nonetheless, All’s Well is a treat for anyone seeking an unusual protagonist who enjoys both the drama department and the dramatic.

All’s Well by Mona Awad, (List Price: 27, Simon & Schuster, 9781982169664, August 2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Kate Kitamura’s Intimacies details a few months in the life of an interpreter at The Hague who is looking for belonging to a place and perhaps to a partner. Just as she has to see beyond the words in her work, she has to interpret the actions of her married lover as well as the alleged atrocities of a war criminal she works with at the International Court. This novel is both quiet and thrilling.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, (List Price: 26, Riverhead Books, 9780399576164, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Leigh has a steady life. She works as a lawyer and has a great daughter. Even her divorce is amiable and she still adores her Ex. But when she’s pulled in to work on a rape case with a super tight timeline, her carefully crafted facade threatens to crumble. Slaughter continues to weave a carefully crafted, edge-of-your-seat thriller in this new standalone novel. The twists are surprising and the tension is high!

False Witness by Karin Slaughter, (List Price: 28.99, William Morrow, 9780062858092, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I don’t typically read sci-fi but on a recommendation from a fellow team member on the podcast What Should I Read Next, I read “A Long Way to a Dark Angry Planet”. With this title, I believe that I will read anything Becky Chambers’ writes. This novella was WONDERFUL! It was just what I needed this weekend; engaging but comforting. I cried at the end; it was the release I didn’t know I needed. Al of my friends need to read this because, as the dedication says, it’s “for everyone who needs a break”, and after the year we have had, we all need this break.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, July 2021)

Reviewed by Shannan Malone, The Snail On the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

The Therapist by B. A. Paris

This book stressed me out in the worst yet best possible way; I don’t know how to explain that I hated yet loved the anxiety it gave me! Alice and Leo have moved into a new home and host a housewarming party. An unknown man appears at the party, and a few days later he reappears with a revelation about the new home and neighborhood she just moved into. Alice becomes determined to discover the truth about her home and what her neighbors are hiding. This was a wild ride that I truly enjoyed.

The Therapist by B. A. Paris, (List Price: 27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250274120, July 2021)

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

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Finally the book you have been waiting for. This last year has been tough and we have needed this light hilarious book that needs to be shared with all your friends. Full of stellar observations of life and how people function you will finish and open to the beginning to visit with old friends.

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam, (List Price: 26, Scribner, 9781982156183, July 2021)

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

City Problems by Steve Goble

Ed Runyan is an ex-NYPD detective who left the big apple for the relative quiet of rural Ohio after a particularly gruesome case involving the brutal murder of a young woman. Now it seems his past has caught up with him when he finds himself in a case of another missing young woman on his own turf in the quiet fields of Ohio. The girl, Megan Beemer was reported missing from the Columbus area and was last seen at a party where a high school band from Ed’s area was performing. Between the band and the local kids who were or may have been at the same event, and with the help of a woman detective from Columbus, Ed has to unfold the story of who was at the party and how they might have interacted with Megan. When Megan’s body is found in a local creek, Ed has to struggle with his past and the demons that have stayed with him from the earlier murder in NY which has been the center of his nightmares for years. Ed Runyon is a damaged character, but one who shows his human side in his empathy and depth of commitment to solve this crime and find justice for the victim. We can only hope we’ll see more of Ed Runyon. This one was a great read!

City Problems by Steve Goble, (List Price: 26.95, Oceanview Publishing, 9781608094431, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

A young girl is kidnapped from her German parents before the rise of the Nazis and is raised in the forest to protect her from becoming a Nazi. But even an attempt to shield her from her inevitable future is futile and she becomes enmeshed in Jewish refugees’ lives and becomes important to their survival. But interaction with others has its consequences and takes Yona on a complicated journey of finding herself and learning who she really is. The ending was poetic and left me wanting to understand more. As a side note, Kristin did a great job of explaining the historical background that inspired the book. Hands down, a different spin on the human condition and experiences during the Holocaust.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel, (List Price: 28, Gallery Books, 9781982158934, 2021-07-06)

Reviewed by Lauren Zimmerman, Writers Block Bookstore in Winter Park, Florida

The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler

Part mystery, part family drama, with a dash of romance, The Tiger Mom’s Tale is a story of two times. Lexa is grieving the death of her biological father, whom she only met once as a teen in Taiwan. Told through flashbacks of that ill-fated meeting, we revisit with Lexa the days spent meeting her father, biological sister, stepmother, and extended family, and the impact it had not only on her life but those closest to her. An impactful story about the power of family and connections.

The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler, (List Price: 17, Berkley, 9780593198728, July 2021)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

I started off laughing out loud at Gilda’s inner monologue. The clever writing matches her state of mind and drew me in right away. It took me maybe a third of the book to realize that she was going to get a lot worse. She might lose her mind entirely. I was a little ticked off that this sweet, funny girl was going to be sacrificed to the literary fiction gods for the sake of seriousness. But, then, she wasn’t. I loved this book, then worried for it, then loved it all over again. It’s such a great illustration of what happens to members of a family where all hurts are stuffed, all bad things swept under the rug. Austin weaves the larger narrative into Gilda’s particular story so well that I wasn’t even aware of what she was doing. When that damn cat shows up under the steps, I nearly cheered. Bravo! This may not be an easy hand-sell, but I’m going to give my best shot.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, (List Price: 26, Atria Books, 9781982167356, July 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

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

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff shows us women’s desires in an entirely new way and in a place where desire, especially women’s desire is considered sin. The strength of Matrix lies in its voice and perspective. Groff builds a world where the men are periphery, yet the patriarchal structures and subservience to men’s wills rooted in the women who drive this novel are still palpable. It is a fine line to walk for any woman who dares to go against the grain, and Groff walks that line beautifully through Marie. Pick up this book at the first chance you get! It is sure to be one everyone will be talking about!.

Matrix by Lauren Groff, (List Price: 28, Riverhead Books, 9781594634499, September 2021)

Reviewed by Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

While the ghosts of genocide lurk in the heart of many of the characters in Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties, what comes through in this beautiful collection is the liveliness, humor, love, and tenderness in every character navigating growing up, sex, loss, and family. A wonderful portrait of being a queer child of immigrants, bearing the weight of history, while trying to carve out a new way of life. Each and every story is a joy to read.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, (List Price: 27.99, Ecco, 9780063049901, August 2021)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts

Creating a “page-turner” has always seemed to me to require something beyond writing. An author may be an excellent wordsmith, have brilliant ideas, and yet never achieve the deep understanding of human psychology or the precise timing and rhythm that is needed to hook a reader. My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black is a true page-turner. It took me only two sittings to course through its pages.

Author Terry Roberts sets his propulsive historical murder mystery on Ellis Island in 1920, amid American nativism and White Christian supremacy culture. On the surface is the disappearance of a young white Irish woman with connections in high places, connections who want her found. Stephen Robbins, from Hot Springs, NC, is contracted by a nameless man to solve the woman’s disappearance. It seems that she is not the only person to have gone missing from Island 3, the location of the isolation hospital for immigrants who arrive sick or pregnant at Ellis Island, presenting a potentially contagious situation. At the hospital, Robbins meets Lucy Paul, an undercover nurse who is investigating the high rates of patient death and disappearance. Roberts creates a spookily atmospheric setting in the creepy and mysterious hospital, and Robbins and Paul make a gutsy detective duo. But Roberts offers more than a compelling atmosphere.

My Mistress’ Eyes explores what brings humans to predicate superiority based on genetic expression. What is behind the belief that this assumed superiority excuses the right to commit violence? Roberts intersperses original texts from “scholars” of the time who espoused the superiority of White Christian Americans and proclaimed the dangers of letting immigrants into the United States. These lend credibility to the story, yet never detract from Roberts’ gift for spinning a wonderful yarn-filled humor, romance, intrigue, passion–and murder.

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts, (List Price: 31.99, Turner, 9781684426959, July 2021)

Reviewed by Erin Fowler, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Tetley Abednego lives on a floating patch of trash (much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists here and now), the only solid ground left on a flooded earth. Tetley’s not alone but she is the only one who knows the simple, vital, and lifesaving truth that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world. The Past Is Red is an electrifying parable for this era of climate change, as bitterly optimistic and cheerfully furious as this dire hour demands. All that, and its hilarious and heroic protagonist is sure to steal that gorgeous garbage patch in your chest you call a heart.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 2021-07-20)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

You can’t always believe what you see. Megan Miranda brings the reader to an idyllic neighborhood, but it’s what all the porch cameras don’t show that makes this story the heart pounding thriller it is. Ruby returns to the neighborhood that helped convict her of the murder of a neighborhood couple, and she’s there to expose Hollow’s Edge darkest secrets. When another murder occurs, it seems no one is safe.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda, (List Price: 26.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982147280, July 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars is about a young girl kidnapped from her wealthy German parents and raised in the forests of Eastern Europe. From her earliest years, she is taught to survive in the woods. When her captor dies, she is alone until she comes upon a group of Jewish people fleeing from the Nazis. She decides to do whatever she can to protect them until a family secret threatens everything. Atmospheric with hints of fairy tale, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a stand out in WWII Historical Fiction 

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel, (List Price: 28, Gallery Books, 9781982158934, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

Hell of a Book by Jason Mott

Mott’s latest is no joke. Charlie Kauffman-esque in its surrealism that devolves into almost fever dream with the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever read. Fantastic writing, and meaning, and it should be read by the masses. ‘Memory and death are countries that know no geography.’

Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, (List Price: 27, Dutton, 9780593330968, July 2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

A Summer Read This Next! Selection!

If, like me, your catnip is the taciturn, brainy, hot hero who is secretly a big squishy marshmallow at heart, you can look nor further than this awesome debut! It’s also sexy, witty, and features a well-rounded cast of characters in a STEM environment.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: 16, Berkley, 9780593336823, September 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Trigg, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, June 2021)

Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder’s bark is just as good as her bite with her wholly unique voice and razor-sharp sense of humor. At once weird, darkly funny, moving, relatable and deliciously f*cked up, Nightbitch is a rallying howl to women, and especially mothers, everywhere.

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, (List Price: 26, Doubleday, 9780385546812, June 2021)

Reviewed by Danielle Raub, Itinerant Literate Books in North Charleston, South Carolina

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

This is one freaky book, scary as all get out, and really, really, hard to put down! I was reading late the night (3pm) and the story was cresting on one of the many waves that keep the plot roiling when out of the corner of my eye I saw my bedroom door slowly begin to creak mournfully open. Needless to say I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Turns out it was just my cat stretching out but that incident just shows how immersed I got into this creepy good book.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig, (List Price: 28.99, Del Rey, 9780399182136, July 2021)

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

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

This has been one of my favorite movies for years, so I decided to finally read the book. So glad I did. Much more character development and more storylines. The relationship between Ruth and Idgie is a true love story in the book and it is beautiful how the town accepts it as completely natural. What a bold writing for Ms. Flagg in 1986. I loved how the book included Sipsey’s recipes in the back and the Afterward was lovely.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, (List Price: 18, Ballantine, 9780449911358, March,1993)

Reviewed by Helen Adkins, Story On the Square in McDonough, Georgia

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

It turns out all those hours I spent watching 1980s (and beyond) horror films weren’t wasted. From the detritus of popular culture and our own obsession with nostalgia comes up a blistering horror novel that savages society with the same precision and bloodletting as the killers savage their victims. Hendrix’s fans will be ecstatic, and we all will enjoy puzzling out who these final girls are! (Julia and Dani were the easiest, and I’m still puzzling out some references)

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, (List Price: 26, Berkley, 9780593201237, July 2021)

Reviewed by Tracie Harris, The Book House in Mableton, Georgia

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Georgia in the days immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, Harris’ characters display the best and the worst responses to the new order. Brutal yet hopeful, this one’s a slow burn until you realize you’re so caught up in the story you can’t possibly stop reading.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, (List Price: 28, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316461276, 2021-06-15)

Reviewed by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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

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