The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!
This beautifully retold fable is a celebration of endurance and compassion and a reminder that gentleness and love (and patience) are more powerful than cruelty and hate (and haste). Stead’s innovative style of illustration evokes a classic with bold lines and quiet colors, and his thoughtful tale-telling is unparalleled. A story both timeless and perfect for these times.
The North Wind and the Sun by Philip C. Stead, (List Price: $18.99, Neal Porter Books, 9780823455836, October 2023)
Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia
Seemingly silly yet surprisingly emotional, this book follows the story of a witch with a magical garden. But not all that’s magical is welcome for this witch. She has rats that won’t leave her house whose favorite pastime is bullying her and threatening to eat her. And, as if matters couldn’t get worse, nobody wants to buy the witch’s potions at market. She finds unexpected help when her garden produces a dancing turnip who helps her cook and clean. A delightful read about how the love you give finds its way back to you in unexpected ways.
The Garden Witch by Kyle Beaudette, (List Price: 17.95, Eye of Newt Books, 9781777791841, September 2023)
Reviewed by Daniel Tyler, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
Oh man, I loved everything about this book. I loved that West Africa makes a long overdue appearance in the predominately white realm of YA Fantasy. I loved the characters as well. Young and powerful (though they may not yet know it) teenagers who are charged with the task of bringing magic back into their world and thus saving their people from genocide at the hands of a terrible tyrant. Most of all, I loved the writing. Adeyemi will have you in the palm of her hand gripped by the fast pace and reading long past bedtime. She will have you absolutely dying to read book 2!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, (List Price: $21.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250170972, March 2018)
Reviewed by Gretchen Fitzgerald, M. Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina
Remixes of Greek mythology abound, but Kika Hatzopoulou brings a fresh entry into the trend with a murder mystery focused on the Fates. Io, a descendent of the Fates, is able to see the life threads of people around her and uses this ability in her job as a private investigator. When a surge of wraiths– individuals with maimed life threads– occurs in the city, Io must locate the culprit before the destruction spirals out of control. Threads that Bind is the next must-read for fans of Lore by Alexandra Bracken and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou, (List Price: 19.99, Razorbill, 9780593528716, May 2023)
Reviewed by Charlie Williams, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
A July 2022 Read This Next! Title
This beautiful ode to family and land and the indelible connection between them is a delight to read. Rhythmic text and soft, bright illustrations bring the foraging Tlingit family’s love for each other and the land they inhabit to vivid life. Berry Song is full of love, gratitude, and reciprocity, and is an essential book for all ages.
Berry Song by Michaela Goade, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316494175, July 2022)
Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA
I thoroughly enjoyed reading every chapter of this book! All the Egyptian gods were fun to read about, and their personalities were unique! And the characters were fun and engaging! It was also brilliant to keep all the villains alive, meaning a hopeful sequel? I will be one of the first in line when the author makes the 2nd book!
The Shadow Prince by David Anthony Durham, (List Price: $21.95, Tu Books, 9781643794280, October 2021)
Reviewed by Mandolin Moore, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia
This is it! My favorite middle-grade book of 2021. Full of adventure, humor, and friendship, Kiki’s story had me hooked from start to finish. I laughed, cried, and audibly gasped as the story unfolded through the lens of her vivid imagination. I particularly liked the handling and validation of Kiki’s struggles with anxiety. Great for fans of Aru Shah, Inkheart, or anything by Rick Riordan- Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is not to be missed!
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna, (List Price: 17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593206973, July 2021)
Reviewed by Mary Louise Callaghan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Korean American witches! Bulgogi tacos and boba tea portals! This RRP grabbed my attention with the clans of Korean witches and kept it with the strong sister bond and Riley choosing kindness as her strength. There was lots of betrayal and twists and action that made this a fast and exciting read–but it never got overwhelming. The whole cast is great, the world-building is awesome, complex-but-understandable, and the food sounds delicious (I’m REALLY wanting to try bulgogi tacos.) I totally guessed wrong on what the last fallen star was so it was fun that the ending wasn’t predictable. There is a sequel so it ends in a way that makes you want to read the next one, but for the most part, everything is resolved in a way you don’t want to throw the book across the room after the last page.
The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim, (List Price: 16.99, Rick Riordan Presents, 9781368059633, May, 2021)
Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama
CECE RIOS is a beautiful story about finding your inner strength and standing up for what you believe in. Cece witnesses the kidnapping of her older sister, Juana, and vows to rescue her from the realm where dark criaturas live. But it’s discouraging when her entire village thinks she’s cursed with a spirit like Water, in a place where Fire is preferred. Rivera’s world-building is marvelous and her writing hits straight to your heart. As someone who was told “You’re too sensitive,” growing up, this story is so important. Cece loves and feels deeply, she cries when she’s upset, and she is strong because of all of these things. Being fearful doesn’t make you weak, nor does being angry make you strong.
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (List Price: $16.99, HarperCollins, 9780062947550, 4/13/2021)
Reviewed by Miriam Meeks, Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi
This had me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. If you love Greek mythology you will love this! Every seven years, nine Greek gods must walk the earth as mortals and the descendants of Ancient Bloodlines hunt them to steal their powers and immortality. Lore ran away from this world when her family was brutally murdered by a rival line. But she comes across her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena before a hunt, and after binding her fate with Athena, she enters the hunt to fight a new god and to avenge her family and save her home: New York City.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken (List Price: $18.99, Disney-Hyperion, 9781484778203, 1/5/2021)
Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia
This beautifully bittersweet stand alone asks “what would you do if your entire reason for being was built on lies? Your religion, your existence, all of it. Well. Most of it.” Our two main characters follow a terribly sad path where they find their own bits of hope, all leading to an, as I said, bittersweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building within this book, and would not be disappointed if Megan returned at any point later, following other characters.
Soulswift by Megan Bannen (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 11/17/2020)
Recommended by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina