The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fiction

Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

I feel so strongly about this book, I truly think this is the best book I have read this year. A piece of art. The author managed to capture so perfectly the thoughts of sexuality, gender norms, and expressionism in a woman in her 20s. I admired her pushing the boundaries to talk about topics that are considered taboo, such as polyamory, infidelity, and manipulation. The writing was so beautiful, the characters were all so addictive, yet so horrible, and I just couldn’t put it down. Majority of the text is thoughts that the main character has, rather than action, so if you don’t like that, this is not the book for you. I feel like I could recommend this to any girl my age that is vocal about sex, feminism, and love. Truly a book I think everyone should read. I never like to re-read books, but this is a book I can definitely see myself re-reading. I am dying for a sequel, or at the very least, another novel by Lillian Fishman.

Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman, (List Price: $27, Hogarth, 9780593243763, May 2022)

Reviewed by Yarah Elshaer, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

This book was beautiful. Rakhi was such a carefully crafted character with such a distinct voice. The novel has a sense of place and identity that is wholly it’s own and immensely compelling. The book speaks to poverty and voluntourism and privilege and hypocrisy while maintaining a focus on character and story. It paints upon a setting that unblinkingly presents both the beauty and the injustice of Bombay, and it presents Rakhi as she is—fiery and smart and insightful and honest. This is a perspective that needs to be heard and is so dignifying to its subject. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—I love a book that speaks honestly to the injustices of the world while completely holding its own as a literary work.

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593499504, April 2022)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

OMG this book a WILD ride! It is practically a guarantee that I will thoroughly enjoy just about any book that involves cults… but a cult centered out reproduction and motherhood? Holy moly count me in. What really stood out to me about Just Like Mother (and what I believe sets it apart from other reproductive-themed thrillers) was how it features a child-free protagonist and explores the many layers of being a woman who decides to not have children. To a cult of women who deify motherhood as the pinnacle of being, who is a woman that rejects motherhood? A radical, a traitor, and a threat to their entire identity and ethos. The sense of dread and tension that permeates and persists throughout the entire story really is fantastic. Every moment that I was listening to the audiobook, my stomach was turning with the feeling that some horrible, terrible, ever-worsening doom was just around the corner. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Joanne Ramos’s The Farm, and to anyone who has been searching for a child-free perspective in the reproductive thriller genre!

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Nightfire, 9781250787514, May 2022)

Reviewed by Caroline Barbee, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi

When Man Booker Prize winner Jokha Alharthi writes, a river of emotions pours from her in the most beautiful way possible. Her latest translated novel features a young Omani student in London attempting to come to terms with the grief and regrets of losing her devoted grandmother by not attending to her when she needed her most. The tale drifts back and forth through time, giving the reader a view into the two strikingly different lives of these women; where both bear the weight of unfulfilled desires. This was an exquisite and haunting read.

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220038, May 2022)

Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani’s The Good Left Undone transports you through both time and place, moving effortlessly through four generations of the Cabrelli family and from country to country during one of Europe’s most trying times. It not only impresses the importance of family and the love we share with those we choose, but the importance of the stories and heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani, (List Price: $28, Dutton, 9780593183328, April 2022)

Reviewed by Doloris Vest, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

A feral parable on the violence of racism, misandry, and class from a preeminent, new voice of contemporary Mexican literature. Melchor’s style in Paradais is writhing and slippery, capturing not only a portrait of desperation but the ugliness of the toxic thread that runs through the underside of our collective psyche.

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, (List Price: $19.95, New Directions, 9780811231329, April 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

Y’all, oh my GOD. Akwaeke Emezi has done it again and I love it so much. It is hot and messy and hot-messy and addicting. I thrive on drama and this novel delivers! Forget love triangles, this is a love star, five different points criss-crossing into something bright and beautiful and a little bit hard to look at. As fun and exciting as it is, it also touches on trauma and recovery, self-growth, and love. Utterly heart-wrenching and belly-laughter-inducing.

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi, (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982188702, May 2022)

Reviewed by Laney Sheehan from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Sister Stardust by Jane Green

I inhaled this book in a day! If you loved Daisy Jones and the Six you will adore this book based on Talitha Getty and her husband as they lived the sex, drugs and abundantly hippie lifestyle. Told through the naive eyes of a girl who happened on the scene after being thrown out of her home by her evil step-mother, this takes you behind the scenes to what it was really like. “Close” friendships and love affairs are not what they seem and the lifestyle can only burn out. The ride you are on with this book is incredible. Fun introspective read.

Sister Stardust by Jane Green, (List Price: $26.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335425782,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

Whether as a stand-alone read or for already die-hard fans of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, The Book Woman’s Daughter delivers! Honey, the original book woman’s daughter, must struggle to stay free against what seem often insurmountable odds against her: from being a “blue” to being fifteen, and unfortunately perhaps most, for being female in a time and place where women were considered property. Amidst loss and persecution, she must forge a path for hersef through the dense woods of Kentucky’s Appalachia Kentucky. Beautiful, evocative, and full of adventure, this book also shines a light on the gifts of friendship, no matter the appearance of the package. I loved this book every bit as much as Troublesome Creek, and look forward to sharing it with eager readers, just as Honey shares her love of books with her reading community… another fine work by Kim Michele Richardson!

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson, (List Price: $26.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728252995,  May 2022)

Reviewed by Shari Stauch, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Fantastic thriller with a tender narrative running throughout as two ex-convict fathers come to terms with each of their sons’ homosexuality too late. Highly recommended!

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby, (List Price: $17.99, Flatiron Bookss, 9781250252715,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett

Like a Sister is as much a story about today’s social media culture and societal issues especially those of race and class as it is a masterfully written twisty mystery. The story is narrated by the very relatable Lena Scott, half- sister of realty star Desiree Pierce who is found dead of a presumed overdose. Lena uses sarcasm and wit to hide her emotions because as a young Black woman in today’s world Lena believes what her mother has always told her – that she must always show her super-woman side to the world. While Desiree was a known alcoholic and coke user, one of the main reasons the sisters had not spoken in two years, Lena is convinced that Desiree didn’t die from an accidental overdose of heroin. She wouldn’t have been surprised if it were coke but never heroin, as Desiree hated needles and was too vain to ever leave track marks. Lena believes the last favor she can do for her sister is find out the truth behind her death even, as it turns out, at the risk to her own life.

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett, (List Price: $28, Mulholland Books, 9780316256704,  March 2022)

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

Book of Night by Holly Black

Holly Black has returned with a darkly enthralling new world where shadows are more than just a trick of the light, and magicians are the thing that go bump in the night. With everything from a kick-ass female lead, grand heists and blood magic, this is an urban fantasy that comes with a bite and leaves with a door slam to the face. I can’t wait to see where Black takes the rest of the series. Readers with a taste for the macabre won’t be able to put this one down. Black’s foray into adult fiction feels like a breath of fresh air for the modern fantasy reader, with a dash of dark academia and a new magic system that begs us to ask the question: what really is a human soul?

Book of Night by Holly Black, (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250812193,  May 2022)

Reviewed by Emma June Wood, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Readers of Kaikeyi will be pulled into this lyrical counternarrative of the reviled queen from the ancient epic Ramayana. Known as a jealous, villainous stepmother who banished Rama and put her own son on the throne, Patel tells a much more nuanced, compassionate tale of a brave woman caught between manipulative gods and a patriarchal society who nevertheless tries to improve the lot of women in her kingdom. Kaikeyi’s voice is stunningly spirited, and Patel’s mesmerizing prose is immersive and inventive. This will definitely appeal to fans of mythological retellings in the vein of Circe.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, (List Price: $28.00, Redhook, 9780759557338,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa

An April Read This Next! Book

I loved this follow up to Mia Sosa’s wedding-themed contemporary romance series. An overheard conversation just before a couple’s wedding makes Solange unable to hold her peace. Instead, she blurts out to the bride not to go through with it just as the couple is saying their “I do’s”. This leads to a chain of events that neither she, nor the stuffy groom Dean, could have thought possible. For one thing, Solange spells danger to Dean. She is unpredictable, feisty, and doesn’t have her life mapped out every single step of the way like he does…and that terrifies him. But, she could prove to be just what he needs to shake things up and finally find love.

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa, (List Price: $15.99, Avon, 9780062909893,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada

Scattered All Over the Earth is undeniably a classic. A pilgrimage novel with a growing cast of memorable characters embodying a beautiful kaleidoscope of language, loss, identity, and home. Tawada’s vision is, as always, wonderfully unique, often funny and particularly here, where she’s at her most poignant. Thankfully, this is only the promising beginning of what is set to be a masterpiece trilogy of books.

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada, (List Price: $16.95, New Directions, 9780811229289,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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