The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Historical Fiction

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Fab. a. suspenseful page-turner; b. hilariously cringey; c. who doesn’t need therapy including your therapist? d. elegantly creepy; e. a novel perfect for these times but set in those times.

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, (List Price: $17.95, Biblioasis, 9781771965200, November 2022)

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

Spotlight on: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

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People often ask how much of myself is in a book. Generally I say all of me and none of me. It’s dangerous to associate authors with their work. It’s fiction but the more you are engaged with your writing the more the readers are also involved. I think a reader needs the author to be invested wholly in the writing, otherwise it feels a bit like cheating, in a way.

I tend to get emotional towards the end of writing a book, because so much is coming together and the story feels as though it is going to work and do what I wanted it to do. I love endings – beginnings and endings are what I like most in fiction. ” ―Kate Atkinson, Interview, Women’s Prize for Fiction

 

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

What booksellers are saying about Shrines of Gaiety

  • 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.
      ―Jude Burke-Lewis from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi | Buy from Square Books

  • Atkinson’s latest novel sparkles with all her brilliance. Featuring deft character studies and a lack of sentimentality, this clever timepiece set in the roaring ’20s has an atmospheric mix of criminal and cop, ingenue and madame. Seedy SoHo has been the playground for the infamous Coker family for many years, and they must now defend their nightclub empire from attack by mysterious forces. Witty & wise, moving but never mawkish, this is Atkinson at the top of her game.  ―Maggi Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • Ma Coker, queen of London’s night club scene, is released from jail, at the beginning of this novel set against a London full of missing girls, many of whom worked at Coker’s clubs. Told from the point of view of Coker and her endless family members; as well as a librarian who works with a police officer to find the girls; and some of the girls themselves. Kate Atkinson is at her most imaginative in this thriller that’s almost as wild as the roaring 20s themselves..  ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia | Buy from Righton Books

About Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her 2013 novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and voted Book of the Year for the independent booksellers associations on both sides of the Atlantic. It also won the Costa Novel Award, as did her subsequent novel, A God in Ruins (2015), and was adapted into a critically acclaimed television series in 2022. Her bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. She has written twelve groundbreaking, bestselling books and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)

Reviewed by Cheryl Lafaye Lee, 44th & 3rd Bookseller in Atlanta, Georgia

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

Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

I didn’t realize this was the 5th book by this author but it was good as a standalone. The family is living in Palm Beach after being forced to leave Cuba because of the revolution. 1964: Isabel is married to Thomas though it is more of a marriage of convenience than one of love. There has been no communication between the family and her sister Beatriz for a few weeks. Beatriz is involved in dangerous spy work with the CIA so Isabel decides to travel to Barcelona to check in on her. When she arrives she finds her sister’s apartment empty and meets Beatriz’s friend Diego. The two of them are concerned for her sister’s safety and start searching for her. Eventually, the two develop a close bond which has Isabel second-guessing her whole life.

1936: Alicia, (Isabel’s mother) travels to Barcelona from Cuba with her young daughter, Isabel, after finding her husband with another woman. While in Spain she reconnects with a man from her past who she once had feelings for. Spain is in the midst of a civil war and violence is erupting. Alicia has to make some quick decisions about her life and her heart. The author does such a great job in weaving the stories of this family together. There is so much going on that you just don’t want to stop reading!

Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593197820, May 2022)

Reviewed by Trish Peters, Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia

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

Spotlight on: The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel

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Emma Seckel, photo credit Megan Shaefer

The first part of The Wild Hunt that came to me was the setting; the second was the sluagh. I was living in Scotland at the time and knew I wanted to try to capture the feeling I had there, the landscape and the history and — yes — the weather. I was interested in the way that story, myth and legend shaped communities. I started researching Scottish folklore, and found the myth of the sluagh, creatures that are said to carry the souls of the dead. I started playing with the legend, and the earliest seeds of The Wild Hunt started to grow.” –Emma Seckel, Interview, All Arts

 

The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel

What booksellers are saying about The Wild Hunt

  • Spooky, speculative fun…so atmospheric (and full of dread) that I couldn’t pull myself away. Perfect for lovers of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. ―Maggie Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • An excellent mix of fantasy and historical fiction. The Wild Hunt is a book that grabs you from the beginning and still doesn’t let go at the end. On this small island that Leigh has lived ever since she was born, minus the last few years, they are dealing with the ramifications of World War II along with their own Celtic legend that has always been there. Seckel does an amazing job of telling the story of love and loss, and that through compassion things can change. Just a little compassion goes a long way and sometimes what you give you get back tenfold!
      ―Mandy Harris from Angel Wings Bookstore in Stem, North Carolina
    Buy from Angel Wings Bookstore

  • I am always mesmerized by any tale featuring the mythology and lore of Ireland, Scotland and all points in that direction. The slaugh has arrived in Scotland. According to Celtic legend they are bands of crows known to carry the souls of the dead and they inhabit the island of Kate’s birth. Kate returns from city life back to this isolated island and is faced with disturbing events that she must deal with. Mysterious and provocative, I got lost in this story and couldn’t put it down. Tantalizing tale!  ―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama
    Buy from Page & Palette

About Emma Seckel

Emma Seckelis an award-winning writer and photographer living in Vancouver, Canada.

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Spotlight on: The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

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Jamie Ford

Much of the research regarding epigenetics, the longer version is transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is about traumatic events. It’s about pain. It’s about the things that we were exposed to that were negative. And from a research standpoint, those things are much more easily recognized, whereas things that are more benign or beneficial are perhaps harder to see. I looked at it and thought, we inherit pain and trauma, what else can we inherit?” –Jamie Ford, Interview, Bookweb

 

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

What booksellers are saying about The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

  • Well this was just fascinating! The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is a beautifully written novel weaving together the stories of seven generations of women – each whom is impacted by a significant loss or tragedy, the effect of which is passed down to their ancestors. Jamie Ford has written a insightful, thought-provoking story that marries history with science, asking us to question the extraordinary ways in which our past shapes our future. ―Anderson McKean from Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama
    Buy from Page & Palette

  • Grab a pen, because you might want to take some notes while reading this wild ride tale of the trauma, triumphs, and truths intertwined in 7 generations of Moy family women. This one’s as sure to be dog-eared as it is impossible to put down.
      ―Angie Tally from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina
    Buy from The Country Bookshop

  • This book is an epigenetic exploration of Chinese American womanhood. Ford shows us several generations, starting with the story of Afong Moy, an imported circus “freak” who was the first Chinese American woman, and weaving in the stories of her Chinese American descendants from the 19th century to the 2070’s, all of whom feel the aftereffects of their progenitor’s racial trauma and find themselves, despite their best efforts to be individuals, reliving it. This book provides a really thought-provoking way to think about race, which is somehow at once bleak and optimistic.  ―Akil Guruparan from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • This is my first by author Jamie Ford, but will not be my last. His exquisite writing is not only beautiful, but also thought provoking and cerebral. Based on Epigenetics, the research that suggests that trauma/fears can be inherited from previous generations, the story takes readers on a journey meeting several descendants of Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America. The book stretched out over 200 years as each chapter reveals the tragedies faced by a descendent of Afong, and how each responds due to her genetic response to fear. A mix of history, science and fantasy, this is one of those books that will stay with readers for a very long time!  ―Sharon Davis from Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia
    Buy from Book Bound Bookstore

About Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Hoiping, China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name Ford, thus confusing countless generations. His debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to win the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. His work has been translated into thirty-five languages. Having grown up in Seattle, he now lives in Montana with his wife and a one-eyed pug..

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Spotlight on: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I love genre fiction, and I love horror. Poor horror gets treated like the cousin we don’t talk about. He doesn’t get invited to dinner. On the one hand, I joke that the industry that gave us Crabs: The Human Sacrifice—please look up the 1988 cover of that book—can’t be taken very seriously after going there. And the horror boom of the ’80s produced plenty of dreck. But between possessed children and sewer mutants, there’s sometimes a space to touch on something special and no less poignant than a realistic drama. It’s the space of shadows on the wall that we stared at before we went to sleep when we were children and the frightful darkness around a campfire.” –Silvia Moreno-Garciay, Interview, Pen America

 

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

What booksellers are saying about The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

  • Carlota loves her life in Yaxaktun, nestled in the jungles of Yucatan. She is a devoted daughter, even though her God-complex having mad scientist father is raising animal-human hybrids to work the lands of the Hacienda. Unfortunately, Carlota soon finds out that she is on borrowed time and borrowed land. Carlota must wrestle with being a good daughter and doing what she knows is right. Also, the author did her research! Moreno-Garcia weaves the history of the Caste War of Yucatan as well Yucatec Mayan language and myths into a beautiful story. ―Kate Smith from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC
    Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • I don’t even know what to compare this book to, it’s just so incredibly unique and wonderful. Yes, it is a reimagining of a classic, but it’s by a WoC about a WoC, where the villain is now white men impeding in Native spaces, and the horror that always follows, inflicted upon the native people and the land. Silvia’s words are sweeping and yet calculated, crafting a dreamy affair where so-called monsters are more human than the actual humans are. Readers who were obsessed with Gods of Jade and Shadow will devour this book!
      ―Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Drawing inspiration from the famous HG Wells novel, Moreno-Garcia has penned a novel that defies genre, mixing elements of historical fiction and sci-fi with a dash of romance. The heroine’s character development from obedient daughter to independent badass was particularly enrapturing, as was the role of the hybrids. I early await Moreno-Garcia’s next project.  ―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee
    Buy from Parnassus Books

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of the novels Velvet Was the Night, Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, and a bunch of other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award–winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). She has been nominated for the Locus Award for her work as an editor and has won the British Fantasy Award and the Locus Award for her work as a novelist.

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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

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

I finished this book yesterday, and I’m realizing it deserves a re-read or two! This is my first by author Jamie Ford, but will not be my last. His exquisite writing is not only beautiful, but also thought-provoking and cerebral.

Based on the scientific study of Eugenics, in which the research suggests that trauma/fears can be inherited from previous generations, readers are introduced to several descendants of Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America. With settings spanning from 1836-2045, each chapter reveals the tragedies faced by a descendent of Afong, and how each responds due to her genetic response to fear and tragedy.

A mix of history, science and fantasy, this is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Fors, (List Price: $28.00, Atria Books, 9781982158217,  August 2022)

Reviewed by Sharon Davis, Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, Georgia

The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule

Bazawule swiftly drops you into an immediate and tumultuous love story between Bernadette and Melvin as they escape the States seeking a fantastical refuge in 1960s Ghana. This piece is deeply heartbreaking, yet manages to hold it together through its magical storytelling. “Queen and Slim” fans will love this novel as its deep cinematic influence encourages evocative visuals and sentient understandings of the character’s interiors.

The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule, (List Price: $27, Ballantine Books, 9780593496237, June 2022)

Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

A June 2022 Read This Next! Title!

I get that the term "transportive" is overused in blurbs, but I don’t know how else to describe this gorgeous novel from Kali Fajardo-Anstine. I was swept away by Woman of Light, which follows five generations of the Lopez family from the nineteenth century into the 1930s, spanning across the Western territories of America. In beautiful, decadent prose, Fajardo-Anstine shows us everything from traveling circus acts and fortune tellers, to turn of the century Denver nightlife, house parties and wedding festivities. This is a love letter to the American West that was left out of the classic cowboy films, to the Indigenous and Latinx communities who have lived there for centuries. I loved every word.

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, (List Price: 28, One World, 9780525511328, June 2022)

Reviewed by Lindsay Lynch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Spotlight on: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

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Geraldine Brooks

This book was like a gift…it came to me right when I was getting absolutely no work done because my midlife crisis turned out to be not a red mustang but a little black pony. I became a horse-crazy girl in my middle age.”Geraldine Books, interview

 

 

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

What booksellers are saying about Horse

  • Wow! Brooks knows how to tell a story and this one weaves many characters that all have one thing in common: The Horse called Lexington, a great racehorse but also the greatest sire of the late 19th Century. Lexington was a real horse, and this novel contains true facets of his life and real people around him, but also fictional characters that cared for him both during his life and after his death. We have a big equestrian community in our county and they will love this, as will book clubs. ―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC
    Buy from The Country Bookshop

  • Horse by Geraldine Brooks Brooks has woven an extraordinary adventure about Lexington, a Kentucky thoroughbred. His accomplishments were extraordinary. He won all but one of his races but more significantly his legacy as the most successful leading sire in America during the last half of the nineteenth century makes him unparalleled in horse history. Other figures play into this story: Jarrett, the slave boy groom who loved him, Thomas Scott, the painter who captured Lexington on canvas and others whose contributions were significant. A fascinating story! Brooks is a masterful storyteller! I loved it!   ―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL
    Buy from Page & Palette

  • A compelling and beautifully-crafted story with a mystery at its giant, horse-sized heart. This is a book about the fragility of life, love, and liberty for people of color in this country, in the past and in the present day.   ―Maggie Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC
    Buy from Flyleaf Books

About Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March and the international bestsellers The Secret Chord, Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Born and raised in Australia, Brooks lives in Massachusetts.

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