The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Horror

These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall

I absolutely adore beautifully written horror. There’s something amazing about taking something that should be absolutely terrifying and finding a way to write it so beautifully that it could be poetry. Yet despite the beautiful prose, I was still chilled to my bones. These Fleeting Shadows was dripping with beautiful pain and chills. This is the perfect release to snuggle up with on a dark and foggy night, but only if you’re sure your house is safe from everything that might go bump in the shadows. Helen and her family are well written as well as intriguing.

These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall, (List Price: $18.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593405116, August 2022)

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

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

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Ah southern gothic, my dearest friend, you’ve done it again. Isabel Cañas has joined hands with the spookiest of ghosts and written a tale of romance, mystery, and horror that would have even the stoutest individual shaking in their boots, wondering who would survive, if any at all. I loved every single second of The Hacienda, and am remiss that it ever ended, considering how desperately the author makes you crave more. This book is absolutely perfect for fans of Crimson Peak and Mexican Gothic, but most importantly, it’s perfect for the adults who were once teens in love with the supernatural romances of the ’00s and early ’10s.

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas, (List Price: $27, Berkley, 9780593436691,  May 2022)

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat

Wren Warren is one of the four founding families of Hollow’s End that holds one of the mysterious crops that tourists flock to. Everything in her life was perfect until the corruption started seeping into the town. Now they’re all trapped in quarantine trying to fight back the “Blight” with no help from a mysterious government agency. Wren will have to ask her ex Derek for help before it’s too late for her and the farms. This was a delightfully dark and delicious read. Not only do we have a very good doggo named Teddy, we also have real and raw characters that leap off the page into your heart. If you like your horror with a bit of small town gothic, this is for you and it’s perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat (List Price: $18.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593382165,  March 2022)

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

The Ravenous Dead by Darcy Coates

This next instalment of the Gravekeeper Series hasn’t even come out yet, and yet I’m already itching to read the next part of Kiera’s story. This series is the most unexpectedly delightful combination of spooky, action packed, and heartwarming slice of life all wrapped up in a mystery. I find myself falling in love with all of the characters, from the kindly pastor Adage, to the cheery “not a doctor” Mason. However I adore most of all our main character and amnesia ridden ghost whisperer Kiera. I adore this series and cannot wait for the next one!

The Ravenous Dead by Darcy Coates, (List Price: $14.99, Poisoned Pen Press, 9781728239224,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Ana Staff, Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina

Spotlight on Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente

“Unlike most of my work, Apples turned up in my head whole one day a few years back. I knew exactly where it was headed, how I’d get there, and how I’d wreck the neighborhood on the way there before I ever touched one letter on my keyboard.”–Cathrynne M. Valente (My Favorite Bit)

The newest book by the prolific and much-beloved Catherynne Valente is described as a thriller, a horror story, and a fairy tale. But more detailed descriptions are delibertately lacking. That was intentional: “It has such a massive twist that we’ve worked so hard not to spoil in the lead-up to its release (and reviewers have kindly helped out!)”

The story centers around Sophia, who is a happy housewife with the perfect husband living in a gated community she loves. Until one day she discovers what looks like the tip of a human finger when she is cleaning her house. Suddenly, Sophia’s perfect life seems not quite so perfect.

The conspiracy of silence around the plot and its twists has not prevented a rising chorus of surprised delight from Valente’s readers. Valente has written across multiple genres and formats, including the recently released speculative climate-change graphic novel The Past is Red, which was a recent Read This Next! selection by Southern booksellers. Her work, as an interviewer for Gridmark Magazine notes, includes stories of myth and superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, comedy and horror, and both middle-grade and adult.

“It’s very important to me to always be trying something new,” says Valente, “pushing the edges of my skill level”

Comfort Me With Apples

What booksellers are saying about Comfort Me With Apples

  • As crisp and delicious as its namesake, with an equally rotten core. Catherynne M. Valente continues to be one of the most creative, diabolical, and insightful writers of our time.  ― Jenny Luper from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Small and delicious, more thrilling than thriller. Valente’s prose is gorgeous and strange. I caught the mystery halfway through the narrative, which didn’t lessen any of this little novel’s power. For that witch in your life, or for a woman you know that needs to be reminded of her own ancient worth. ― Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • What a creepy delight this short book was! Valente’s masterful prose creates a sense of suspense and unease that permeates the whole book– we know something is amiss, however, it isn’t until the very end that we understand who and what the threat really is. Comfort Me With Apples is like if The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bible combined and made one twisted new story.  ― Jessica Baker from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Yowza, this book! I don’t really know how to classify it – sort of horror, sort of sci-fi, sort of a class of its own. A retelling of Adam and Eve, but with a cast of Stepford-like characters, this packs a lot of wildness in just over 100 pages. Apples truly is difficult to describe without giving anything away so trust me – just read it. ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, and Hugo awards, as well as the Prix Imaginales. Valente has also been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.

Spotlight on Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

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Patti Callahan

Where do you get your ideas? Where do ideas come from?

When Patti Callahan was asked to describe her new novel Once Upon a Wardrobe in a sentence she answered "Where did Narnia come from?"

"Where do get your ideas" is, as she readily admits, the most common question any writer has ever received about the book they have written.

"it’s an unanswerable question," Callahan admits, "It’s mysterious. A little bit numinous. A little bit out of my control. We come up with answers…but you can’t ever fully say."

It was, nevertheless, a question that came up for Callahan herself when she was researching her novel on C.S, Lewis’s wife, Becoming Mrs. Lewis. She saw clues, "breadcrumbs" of things in Lewis’s life that hinted at what would become Narna. "Where did Narnia come from?" became a question she was always asking at the back of her mind. Rather than come up with a list of reasons, "I thought," she said, "it would be more interesting to answer that question as a story."

Once Upon a Wardrobe

What booksellers are saying about Once Upon a Wardrobe

  • I have eagerly been awaiting for this story as I am a fan of all things C.S. Lewis related! Callahan does not disappoint. She has chosen a unique perspective on the life of Lewis by weaving the yearnings of a small boy, George, who desperately wanted to know where Narnia came from into a deep connection that he comes to have with Lewis through his sister, Megs. Wonderfully charming and insightful! ― Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL
    Buy from Page & Palette

  • “The way stories change us can’t be explained. It can only be felt like love.” Parti Callahan in Once Upon a Wardrobe has written a story that has so many quotes that I wanted to keep forever with me. This book is a treasure that you can keep in your life forever. ― Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA
    Buy from Bookmiser

  • This unfolding tale of how C.S. Lewis penned one of his best known works is spellbinding. I cannot remember the last time a book made me cry, but Patty Callahan created Megs and George who reached in and melted my heart.  ― Jackie Willey from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC
    Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Patti is a wonder, and her enduring relationship with the life and loves of CS Lewis delves deep into the heart of what it means to be a passionate reader. This is a novel about a practical young woman bound to find the story behind the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to fulfill her dying brother’s last wish. What a beautiful book!  ― Ashley Warlick from M Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, SC
    Buy from M. Judson

About Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Globe and Mail bestselling novelist of fifteen novels, including Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Surviving Savannah, out now, and Once Upon a Wardrobe, out October 19, 2021. A recipient of the Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year, the Christy Book of the Year, and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year, Patti is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series and podcast Friends & Fiction. Follow her at www.patticallahanhenry.com.

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Spotlight on An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten

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Helene Tursten

There are many reasons a crime writer with a successful series might leave their main character behind and launch themselves into something new. The Swedish author Helene Tursten had a long series of successful books behind her featuring her well-liked, married-with-two-kids detective Irene Huss when she decided to write about a completely different character, the absolutely not-married-and-no-plans-to-be Embla Nyström. “After 10 books about Irene, I strongly felt that I had to recharge my batteries,” she said in an interview.

Readers may well wonder what else Tursten might have been trying to work out when she came up with her other literary character, Maud.

Maude is not a detective, not a young woman, and certainly not interested in “justice.” Although she’s not shy about dealing out just desserts. An octogenarian who makes full use of people’s tendency to underestimate little old ladies, Maud is rather like a slightly evil Miss Marple. The result is both oddly charming and oddly unsettling. Even sort of scary. An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed is Tursten’s second book of Maud stories. It includes everything you might expect from one of Sweden’s best noir writers: Dead bodies. Ruthless criminals. Desperate victims. Cookie recipes.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

What booksellers are saying about An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

  • You definitely wouldn’t want to meet the heroine of An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed in a dark alley late at night. Maud may be pushing ninety, but she is a force and has spent her life exacting her own brand of justice that may or may not have resulted in more than a few murders. Translated from Swedish, this was charming.. ― Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA
    Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • I met my favorite octogenarian killer in An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed! This cozy and elegant murder mystery makes the perfect gift for the mystery-loving people in your life (fits perfectly in a stocking!). ― Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • Hilarious and darkly sinister, this book is satisfying and entertaining. Maud is not someone you want to cross seeing as those who do don’t survive. ― Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Maud is back and better than ever in this second tale of murder and revenge! This collection of stories takes us back to her youth and how she became who she is – and what happened to those left in her wake! Picking up where we left off in her previous collection, Maud is trying to evade the authorities that won’t leave her alone. This pocket-sized book is perfect for the mystery lovers in your life!   ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Helene Tursten

Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing. She is the author of the Irene Huss series, including Detective Inspector Huss, Night Rounds, Who Watcheth, and Protected by the Shadows; the Embla Nyström series; and the short story collection An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, which also features Maud. Her books have been translated into 25 languages and made into a television series. She was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband.

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I Walk With Monsters by Paul Cornell

Beautifully horrific visuals and genuinely compelling characters, it was a thrilling story that, for better or worse, doesn’t spoon-feed you any extra information and keeps you as in the dark as possible. While this aides the overall foreboding aura the story emits, it also almost tantalizingly keeps it’s secrets just out of our reach. I truly hope to see more in the future, because this collection went by in a flash.

I Walk With Monsters by Paul Cornell, (List Price: $15.99, Vault Comics, 9781638490067, October 2021)

Reviewed by Deion Cooper, Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina


Spotlight on All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman

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Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Some ideas start small — a feeling, a scene, a whisper that grows into a roar inside an author’s mind. But the idea for All of Us Villains felt capital-B Big from the beginning. ―Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman, (via Whatever)

Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman were already established YA writers and best friends when they had "the big idea" ― to write the novel together they were each afraid to write on their own. "We had a favorite trope in common, the death tournament," they note in a recent column on John Scalzi’s website, Whatever. "but neither of us were brave enough to tackle a trope so famous and dramatic alone."

As it turned out, collaborating on a novel was as challenging for the two writers as its plot was for their characters. It’s one thing to share a manuscript but quite another to share a creative process. Disagreements threatened to not only scuttle the book, but damage the friendship.

Instead, Foody and Herman turned the project into something that deepened and strengthened both. "Our differing opinions didn’t mean someone was right and someone was wrong–it meant each of us had something important to say. So instead of pushing back…we listened to each other."

And they credit the enthusiastic reception All Us Villains has received to the lessons they learned in writing it together: "The final version of All of Us Villains exists on a knife’s edge of such contradictions: heroism and villainy, blame and responsibility, fun and fright, a fantasy story that sometimes feels brutally real. "

All of Us Villains

What booksellers are saying about All of Us Villains

  • Fans of magic, ambition, and dark fairy tales, All of Us Villains is for all of us. These villains will rip your heart out (and make you want to hug this book). I highly recommend this gruesome, dark, and twisty series-starter for fans of The Hunger Games, A Deadly Education, and The Hazel Wood. ― Megan Bell from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA
    Buy from Underground Books

  • A blurb that claims "a magical Hunger Games" is a lot to live up, but All of Us Villains exceeds all expectations. Devastating and deliciously dark, from the magic system to the characters, every single word is precise in gutting the reader. I was drawn in by every character and devastated by every blow! I have no doubt that this will be a runaway hit when it releases. I went without food and sleep to finish this harrowing tale. ― Katlin Kerrison from Story on the Square in McDonough, GA
    Buy from Story on the Square

  • This Hunger Games-esque has one of the most unique magic systems I’ve read! The twists and turns (reluctant romance! Brooding Byronic characters!) will have you flipping pages faster than a class ten curse. ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL
    Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • What a beautiful dark fairy tale of a book! This was an incredible thing to read, full of questionable characters, romance, and full of back-stabbing intrigue. I loved the protagonists and the storyline. This book truly is written in blood.   ― Hallie Smith from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

About Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

AMANDA FOODY is the YA and middle grade author of The Shadow Game series, the Wilderlore series, and more. Formerly a tax accountant, Amanda lives in Boston, and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @amandafoody

CHRISTINE LYNN HERMAN is the author of YA novels about magic, monsters, and growing up, including The Devouring Gray duology and The Drowning Summer. Writing updates (and cat pictures) can be found on Instagram at @christineexists or at christinelynnherman.com

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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

Spotlight on Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

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Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

Maggie Tokuda-Hall finds inspiration for her books all around her and from her own life. Her last novel, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was inspired by a nine-year-old girl who used to come into the children’s bookshop where she worked.

Her new book, Squad, comes out of her own experiences in high school, where rape culture was normal, even rampant. What if, she wondered, there was a squad of teenage girls who turned into werewolves once a month and went after all the really bad boys — the sexually aggressive ones, the ones who don’t think "no" counts if you are at a party and everyone is drinking.

"When I was [in high school] it was extremely white." she remembers. "It’s very rich — that’s still true. It’s really privileged. Rape culture was really rampant, and I was really mad about it. Some of the things that I saw or the things that happened to me were kind of traumatizing, but I don’t feel like a traumatized person. I don’t feel like a victim, and I wanted to write a story that reflected that as well."

What follows is more than a revenge fantasy and more than a horror story. Tokuda-Hall turns a critical, yet compassionate eye on the issue of rape culture, patriarchy, and the meaning of consent.

"In my books," she says, "love is salvation. And I believe very fully in my heart that when we allow ourselves to love outside of what patriarchy has dictated for us, this entire other world of being, where all of these other systems of oppression are no longer relevant, can start to take shape."

Squad

What booksellers are saying about Squad

  • Sharp and smart, this dark graphic novel is all about the relentless hunger of teenage girls, partying, revenge, and doing whatever it takes to run with the coolest pack at school. Best enjoyed in one satisfying gulp. ― Julie Jarema from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA
    Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Mean Girls mixed with Teen Wolf? Squad is beyond words, but if I had to use some, these would be it. After Becca transfers to a new school, she worries about fitting in until she meets Marley, Arianna, and Mandy. At first she thinks they’re unnervingly perfect, but turns out their secret is even more intriguing than they are. I am absolutely blown away by Squad, I was thinking teen slasher flick from the cover, but it was so much more. It was a bloody coming of age with a dark twist of how things can go wrong when power gets out of control. The art work is gory and beautiful, this is going to be a breakaway hit. ― Katlin Kerrison from Story on the Square in McDonough, GA
    Buy from Story on the Square

  • Move over, Plastics, there’s a new girl squad in town. Squad is a high school tale about transformational friendship, belonging, and what we’ll do to fit in. It will absolutely sink its claws into you from the very first page. (Puns ALL intended.)   ― Abby Rice from Foggy Pine Books in Boone, NC
    Buy from Foggy Pine Books

About Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

Maggie Tokuda-Hall is the author of the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal–winning Also an Octopus and the young adult novel The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. She received her BA in studio art from Scripps College and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco, and has worked both for independent bookstores and for Apple Books. She is the host of several popular podcasts and lives in San Francisco with her husband, son, and objectively perfect dog. 

Lisa Sterle is an artist with work spanning from comic books to concept designs to pop-culture-fueled illustration. She is the co-creator of the monthly comics Long Lost and Submerged, as well as the creator of The Modern Witch Tarot Deck. She received her BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design and currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

Well. That was nuts. Khaw threw together a fast-paced ghost story, the bitter lyricism of her writing conveying the complexity of feelings when you have History with someone, as well as the surreal when an offended ghost decides it’s making an example out of you.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, (List Price: $19.99, Tor Nightfire, 9781250759412, October 2021)

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

I always knew I was more a glamper than a camper, but with The Woods Are Always Watching, I think I’ll go from hiker to mall walker. The first half of the book is filled with the tension and horror of a friendship falling apart as two besties find themselves on opposite paths post-high school. Friends really know how to hurt you the most…Well, maybe not the most. Because the second half of the book is a furious fight for survival as the girls encounter the most evil threat that lurks deep in the woods. No, not bears, but a serial killer. Plan to read this horror novel during the daytime, preferably on a beach and far away from any woods!

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins, (List Price: 17.99, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 9780525426028, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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

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