The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Historical

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

The Frick Museum is housed in a building built as the home for the Henry Clay Frick family, full of spectacular art. Two storylines tell the tale of the home and the family who lived there in the early 20th century, and then another storyline set in the 1960’s at the museum. With secrets and betrayals, life was not placid in either era.

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis, (List Price: $27.00, Dutton, 9780593184011, January 2022)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

Anatomy: A Love Story is a dark and deadly tale about just how far you’d go to achieve your dreams in a world designed for you to fail. I fell in love with Hazel and Jack. This was a gothic story of resurrection men and women surgeons in disguise that had me guessing until the last moment.

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250774156, January 2022)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Murder Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood

What a fun read! A traditional mystery set in 1946 with two female private investigators who are called to a traveling circus to help find the murderer of the tattooed lady from the side show. This case is of particular interest to Willowjean (Will) Parker who has been working for the brilliant and world-famous detective Ms. Pentecost for the past few years) because she lived and worked at the circus for five years and considered it home and the employees her family. I can’t wait to read about more cases that this interesting and witty duo are able to solve.

Murder Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood, (List Price: $27.00, Doubleday, 9780385547123, December 2021)

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

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

What a fun read! This book and the fictional tales of the women surrounding Gatsby actually makes me want to re-read The Great Gatsby with these imagined back stories in mind. Cantor’s writing is both creative and compelling. Her insights about the lives and struggles of women were woven perfectly into this fictional expansion and made me appreciate the characters of Daisy, Myrtle, Catherine and Jordan way more than before. If you are a fan of The Great Gatsby I think you’ll love this book and its ability to help you revisit the world of West Egg. If you’re not a fan of The Great Gatsby, I still think you’ll enjoy this story of three women and what could have led to the murder of Jay Gatsby. Either way, it’s a creative, fun read for both those who have an appreciation for the old classic and those who just enjoy a good period piece of fiction!

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor, (List Price: $16.99, Harper Perennial, 9780063051263, January 2022)

Reviewed by Lynne Phillips, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Ashoka the Fierce by Carolyn Kanjuro

This picture book serves two purposes: teaches about a figure from Indian history and demonstrates the benefit of peacefulness and goodwill over ferocity and conquering one’s neighbors. As Ashoka the Fierce becomes Ashoka the Great, his reign as emperor transforms from one of terror to one of healing. I love seeing more nonfiction picture books for kids that explore different parts of the world.

Ashoka the Fierce by Carolyn Kanjuro, (List Price: $17.95, Bala Kids, 9781611808544, December 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth

This book is all the things I love about Weymouth’s writing: atmospheric, complex characters, compelling narrative, quietly philosophical. Rowenna is a force and I loved her!

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth, (List Price: 18.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534493087, November 2021)

Reviewed by Lauren Brown, The Story Shop in Monroe, Georgia


The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee

It’s finally here! The third and final installment of the Montague siblings has arrived, and it is well worth the wait! The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks introduces you to Adrian Montague, the youngest of the Montague siblings, and the only one who is completely unaware that he has siblings. When Adrian discovers a partial spy glass that belonged to his mother, questions arise: Where did this spy glass come from And did it have anything to do with his mother’s death?

While searching for answers, Adrian stumbles across Henry “Monty” Montague, the brother Adrian never knew he had. Adrian is delighted and curious to discover more about his brother, but Monty wants nothing to do with him. Yet after some persuasion, Monty decides to assist Adrian on this quest for answers. Adrian and Monty now find themselves embarking on a journey to find their sister Felicity and discover the secrets of the spy glass. But as always, a simple task for the Montague siblings will take a Herculean effort to keep them out of trouble and alive. The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks is one of the best books I have read this year. It’s filled with laughter, very relatable characters, mystery, and ghosts. Mackenzi Lee has created a historical world that takes the reader into the past and gives us characters that we can recognize and relate to.

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee, (List Price: $18.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062916013, November 2021)

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

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

The Perishing by Natashia Deón

From the first page, Natasha Deón is successful in hooking her audience to the strange and unique journey of Lou. Upon waking up naked in an alley, Lou is confused but feels as if this is not the first time this has happened. With no memory, Lou is placed into a foster home where she flourishes and eventually goes on to grow on her own as an adult. From start to finish, this book has readers on the edge of their seat trying to piece together the information they are receiving from both narrators – Lou and Sarah. Extremely compelling, thought-provoking , and deep, Deón has created a masterpiece of a story.

The Perishing by Natashia Deón, (List Price: $26, Counterpoint, 9781640093027, November 2021)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida


Bluebird by Sharon Cameron

This provides rare insight into the life of a young German woman before, during and after WWI. Eva left her life in Berlin and came to the US seeking to fiil in the gaps in her childhood and youth. In her quest, fraught with unknown dangers, secrets and lies, she pushes forward to dispel the myths and face the horrors that she was unaware of in her past. A riveting story that reminds us of the cruel depravity that humans are capable of, and society’s responsibility to hold them accountable.

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron, (List Price: $18.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338355963, October 2021)

Reviewed by Belinda Hayes, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina


Murder Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood

A Fall Read This Next! Selection I was already a fan of the series at the first book but this second really sold me on it. Great character development and originality make for a fun read. Murder Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood, (List Price: $27, Doubleday, 9780385547123, December 2021) Reviewed by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean

This is an absolutely fascinating, if sometimes harrowing, look into the history of science. Fans of Mary Roach will appreciate the unflinching look at the sometimes devastating human cost of scientific progress. The author raises several interesting questions about the use or validity of poorly performed scientific experiments. Particularly, Kean questions whether the knowledge gained from unethical experimentation is valid and what we should do with this information moving forward. I particularly enjoyed his focus on how these actions have affected marginalized communities. I also appreciated his repeated entreaties that we cannot simply wag our fingers at the mistakes of the past and pretend we are blameless and more morally pure than those who came before us. We must constantly remain vigilant and ensure that we are mindful of the ethical and long-term consequences of our actions in the present, lest we repeat our sins in the name of scientific progress.

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean, (List Price: $40, Little, Brown & Company, 9780316496506, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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

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 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

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

Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg

This book was written as a lasting legacy of the grandfather that author Rick Bragg never knew. Charlie Bundrum was a hard-working, bootlegging carpenter and roofer who loved one woman, raised a passel of children and grandchildren, and even took in a battered misfit for decades. He lived a remarkable life, evading the law and surviving misfortune. What a beautiful work – a grandson discovering his grandfather through tales from his mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. The writing is vivid and the character descriptions witty. As Southerners, we embrace the uniqueness of our people. To that end, this book is a winner.

Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg, (List Price: 16.95, Vintage, 9780375724442, 2002)

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

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