The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!


Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

A December Read This Next! Title

Second in Sutanto’s YA series, Didn’t See That Coming focuses on Kiki as she’s forced by her parents to transfer to a top school for her final year. Fortunately, her young friend Eleanor Roosevelt is there, but that seems to be the lone bright spot as she’s bullied by nearly everyone from the principal to her classmates. But Kiki is able to escape into gaming where, because of the massive amounts of abuse, she’s been playing as a male player. But she’s made a great friend in game. However, when she realizes that her friend actually goes to her new school, she must find out who he is. Didn’t See That Coming is both hilarious and heartbreaking while being a fantastic read.

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto, (List Price: $12.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593434048, December 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander

A December Read This Next! Title

Second Chances in New Port Stephen is the perfect mix of heartwarming holiday charm and queer romance. The author does a wonderful job of acknowledging and addressing so many important topics (like being trans in Florida) while remaining hopeful and lighthearted. I loved that the characters are more mature and older – this is not a YA story. And I loved that we get a second chance story, which fits for the age group and for the holiday themes. The tension and slow-burn is great and readers are rewarded at the end! I won’t give any spoilers, but I loved the ending. The characters made my heart ache, they made me laugh, and they gave me the warm fuzzies that come from knowing there are wonderful, genuine, and kind people in the world. Second Chances in New Port Stephen is full of joy and hope and inclusivity with just a dash of holiday cheer. It’s the perfect queer romance for December!

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander, (List Price: $17.99, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 9781668021965, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura

A December Read This Next! Title

This is the romance I’ve been yearning for, one that fills all my needs for a romance novel version of Romancing the Stone, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Indiana Jones. The story features a whip-smart and capable female archeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía who ends up on a dig that could be the find of a lifetime and ends up being forced to finally deal with the one man she hates the most- Dr. Ford Matthews. What could’ve been haunts her, and him too. Unrequited lust/love definitely builds the tension between them to dizzying heights, and makes when they finally give in to their feelings so satisfying.I was surprised by and enjoyed the suspense subplot. Made for a very unexpected and surprising plot twists. The ending itself was ambiguous, but the epilogue more than made up for it! Jo Segura’s debut novel is exciting and a wonderful new addition. I am eager to see what she writes next!

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593547465, December 2023)

Reviewed by Preet Singh, Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia

Betting on You by Lynn Painter

A December Read This Next! Title

Lynn Painter fans rejoice! Betting on You, Painter’s newest YA romcom, is just as swoony and romantic and hilarious as it’s predecessors! Painter masterfully crafts the perfect slow-burn full of page defying chemistry, witty banter, crazy hijinks, and a whole lot of heart! Bailey and Charlie will wiggle their way in readers hearts just as they did each other’s! On top of a stellar romance, Painter also does an excellent job of exploring themes of anxiety, change, and friendship. It’s When Harry Met Sally for a new generation! Plus, all the Taylor Swifts references are definitely a bonus!

Betting on You by Lynn Painter, (List Price: $19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781665921237, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emma Tara, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Spotlight On: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree


Travis Baldree, photo by author

Initially, my plan for both [Viv and Tandry] was that they would simply build a supportive, essential friendship and that Viv’s recognition of the value of that relationship was key to her new life. That strengthened over the course of the story and became what it is now, and it felt inevitable to me. It isn’t a romance, really – it’s a friendship that evolved into something more. The book is largely about quiet acts of bravery that don’t involve a sword – and the leap from friendship to romantic relationship was one of Viv’s last brave acts. The kind of risk that most of us can relate to.
― Travis Baldree Interview, Hunger Mountain

Bookshops & Bonedust byTravis Baldree

What booksellers are saying about Bookshops & Bonedust

  • Baldree does it again! I was positively enchanted with this story, just as I was with Legends & Lattes. Seeing Viv in this stage of her life, so different from her time establishing a coffee shop, was a treat. The bookshop setting was perfect, the plight of a bookseller just trying her hardest to get books into the hands of readers utterly relatable. A fantastic read for cozy fantasy lovers!
      ― Hannah Kerbs, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books

  • This book is so DELICIOUSLY COZY that it CURED my common cold—or at the very least it warmed me all the way up, gave me a kiss on the forehead, and made me feel a whole lot better! Wounded in her first venture as a mercenary, a young Viv washes up in a seaside town with a ramshackle bookshop and ends up finding fiction, friendship, first love, the mutually enriching relationship between small businesses and their community, and a little badass bone-busting adventure along the way! It’s hard to believe, but I loved Bookshops & Bonedust even more than Legends & Lattes and literally hugged this book when I finished it.
      ― Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • This was a rare stand alone prequel that adds so much to the first book, Bookshops and Bonedust has all the cozy vibes and action I had come to expect from Legends and Lattes. There’s a loveable animal companion, a frazzled bookshop owner, a baker of fine treats, and a necromancer lurking somewhere in the background. If you were wondering why a mercenary orc would want to open a coffee shop, read this, maybe with a nice cup of coffee of your own. This book is the perfect example of there’s a right book for every time, and a right time for every book. Super cozy, super well written (and narrated) Travis has definitely made himself an instant buy author for me after these last two slam dunks.
      ― Charlotte Beck, Main Street Reads in Summerville, SC | Buy from Main Street Reads

About Travis Baldree

Travis Baldree (he/him) is a full-time audiobook narrator who has lent his voice to hundreds of stories. Before that, he spent decades designing and building video games like Torchlight, Rebel Galaxy, and Fate. Apparently, he now also writes books. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his very patient family and their small, nervous dog.


Spotlight On: Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey


Tessa Bailey, photo credit Tessa Bailey

This is the challenge going into a modern romantic comedy. Readers expect there to be high stakes on the road to happily ever after. We don’t need the path to be easy, simply because the book has humorous situations or a humorous tone. A lot of us deal with the heavier aspects of life by laughing or creating levity. So that is my balancing act—making sure there is depth to the characters and their struggles, while also making sure the champagne bubble, fizzy feeling of romance is on the page.
― Tessa Bailey, Interview, Bookpage

Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey

What booksellers are saying about Wreck the Halls

  • I cannot say enough about this book. I finished it in 2 days and it would have been done in 1 day but life got in the way. The perfect hilarious, laugh out loud, feel good, swoon worthy, libido enhancing holiday romance! You fall in love with these characters from the very start and fall even harder throughout this book.
      ― Mandy Harris, Angel Wings Bookstore in Stem, NC | Buy from Angel Wings Bookstore

  • Melody and Beat grew up the children of former bandmates, but they never met before they were 16 because their moms broke up their band just before they were born. But the world is clamoring for a reunion, and when a reality TV show producer comes knocking with a very lucrative deal, Beat needs the money enough that he can’t say no, and Melody decides to go along for the ride (and also for Beat). While they attempt to coerce their moms into performing together again (or even just mentioning each other’s names without the world ending), Melody and Beat develop an intimacy born of knowing that they understand each other more than anyone else possibly could — though the millions of people tuning in to their livestream certainly understand something is going on. I love Tessa Bailey, and this book is no exception. A fun and steamy holiday read about finding your person, with absolutely delightful characters.
      ― Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Tessa Bailey just keeps getting better and better! My heart leaped to the music of Melody and Beat as they worked through their issues to reach their HEA! I also appreciated the subplot of their mothers.
      ― Angela Trigg from Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from Haunted Book Shop

About Tessa Bailey

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey can solve all problems except for her own, so she focuses those efforts on stubborn, fictional blue-collar men and loyal, lovable heroines. She lives on Long Island avoiding the sun and social interactions, then wonders why no one has called. Dubbed the “Michelangelo of dirty talk,” by Entertainment Weekly, Tessa writes with spice, spirit, swoon and a guaranteed happily ever after. Catch her on TikTok at @authortessabailey or check out for a complete list of books.


Ruined by Sarah Vaughn

When I came across this historical romance in the form of a graphic novel I knew I had to read it. I fell in love with both Catherine and Andrew through the charming illustrations and heart-filled story. I think this graphic novel will charm the hearts of Bridgerton fans and I hope to see more like it in the future!

Ruined by Sarah Vaughn, (List Price: $28.99, First Second, 9781250769350, November 2023)

Reviewed by Keeshia Jacklitch, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

With or Without You by Eric Smith

Jordan and Cindy are at war. They’re also in love. One of these statements is false. Jordan and Cindy’s families clashed when they both opened food trucks at the same time, parking them in the same spot. They’ve been feuding ever since. Well, for the internet. The families are secretly friends and Jordan and Cindy are dating. But when they’re approached by a reality show that wants to make them into a series, things just get more complicated.

With or Without You by Eric Smith, (List Price: $19.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335458070, November 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

15 Minutes Before We Really Date, Vol. 1 by Perico

So Cute! A cute, easy-to-read story about two childhood best friends deciding to date each other and the awkwardness of learning to see each other as more than friends. Animation is super adorable. I will definitely be reading all the next ones that come out and will be crossing my fingers that this gets picked up for an anime series because I will 100% watch it.

15 Minutes Before We Really Date, Vol. 1 by Perico, (List Price: $15, Yen Press, 9781975368951, November 2023)

Reviewed by Stephanie St. John, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Fun, campy romance with big feelings! I loved everything about this! Reading helped me escape to a fantasy world of found family and hopeful self discovery. I loved the joint storylines, and both romances were so swoon worthy.

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher, (List Price: $20, Wednesday Books, 9781250847218, November 2023)

Reviewed by Rachel Randolph, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch

This is a true enemies-to-lovers read. Both faced with pressures unknown to the other, these art school students battle it out for a life-altering scholarship, while their online personalities collaborate on a webcomic (unknowingly duh). What made this book feel so raw for me, was that both characters had valid reasons for hating the other, reasons that cannot be easily resolved.

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, (List Price: $9.99, Square Fish, 9781250792068, May 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

November Shelf: A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by KJ Charles

Bridgerton meets Poldark in this sweeping LGBTQIA+ Regency romance from celebrated author KJ Charles

When Major Rufus d’Aumesty unexpectedly becomes the Earl of Oxney, he finds himself living in a remote Norman manor on the edge of Romney Marsh with his noble, hostile, and decidedly odd family. His position is contested both by his greedy uncle and by unexpected claimant Luke Doomsday, a dashing member of the local smuggling clan. They should be natural enemies, but cocksure, enragingly competent Luke is a secretary by trade, and quickly becomes an unexpected ally, the partner Rufus needs…and soon the lover he can’t live without.

Unfortunately, Luke’s not telling anything like the truth. He came to Stone Manor with an ulterior motive, one he’s hiding even from the lord he can’t resist. And as family secrets unspool on both sides, master and man soon find their positions and their partnership in danger of falling apart…

A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by KJ Charles, (List Price: 16.99, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 9781728255880, September 2023)

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

This YA debut by Ali was not only riveting it was exceptionally written. This novel almost feels like chess when you’re reading it and watching how intricately Ali has weaved these characters together. Mallory, who loved chess until an unexpected tragedy in her family, now 18 and working to help support her family, beats a world champion, Nolan. Suddenly, everything in her life gets all mixed up as she stumbles into a romance she didn’t know she wanted. This novel, like her adult novels, does an AMAZING JOB touching on the sexism and expectations of a female vs male in the chess (STEM sport) community.

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: $14, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9780593619919, November 2023)

Reviewed by Charlotte Beck, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Spotlight On: Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone


Lyndall Clipstone, photo credit the author

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.
― Lyndall Clipstone, Interview, Geeks Out

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

What booksellers are saying about Unholy Terrors

  • A Monsterous boy and a fierce girl, Clipstone delivers another beautiful YA gothic fantasy. From the moment we first cross through the bone wall with Evie, to traveling through the moorland with Ravel, and facing down the Thousandfold. Clipstone takes us on a journey that feels like a Studio Ghibli film crossed with a horror movie. A gripping family legacy that makes you question everything that happens to Evie, is it fate that Evie and Ravel journey together or is it a curse? A curse that has Haunted Evie since before she was born.
      ― Cass W, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC | Buy from The Country Book Shop

  • Clipstone’s Unholy Terrors takes us to a Wuthering Heights-esque setting, wildly beautiful in its ruin, and drops us off with only the honey and ash prose we fell in love with in her Lake’s Edge duology to guard our hearts and souls against the monsters of truth and generational loyalty that howl in the Thousandfold. A beautiful and haunting read for fans of transforming girls and kissable monsters.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Unholy Terrors is the perfect gothic romance fantasy for all your October spooky season needs. For fans of Crimson Peak and Labyrinth and every dark, haunted thing that deserves to be kissed and killed and brought back again. For the ghastly, and the horrifying, and still beautiful despite it all. Unholy Terrors is perfect, full stop.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Lyndall Clipstone

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She has a bachelors in creative writing and a graduate diploma in library and information management. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.


Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel

After reading Sleepless in Dubai, you will be itching for a trip to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi! Nikki and Yash have been best friends since birth. But this last summer, their friendship blew up and they’ve been avoiding each other since. Now their families have a trip planned together to Dubai for Diwali and they’re going to have to find some way to get along.

Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel, (List Price: $30, Amulet Books, 9781419766961, October 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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