The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!
A July 2022 Read This Next! Title
A Psalm for the Wild-Built was a perfect book. So much so that I put off reading A Prayer for the Crown-Shy because I couldn’t imagine a world where it could live up to the flawless beauty and meaning the first novella held for me. But once again, Becky Chambers has crafted a book that is just as philosophically resonant and wonderfully generous as its predecessor. Dex and Mosscap have become two of my favorite characters in all literature and I will love them till my dying day. No matter who you are, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy will speak to you in some way and remind you that the world is indeed full of wonder and that you are okay.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 21.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236234, July 2022)
Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This book features a young woman who is a translator for an alien species that has come to Earth but that doesn’t have a spoken language. She translates their thoughts into English so other humans can understand them. She finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and she wants to keep her job and stay out of jail. I found this short novel charming and it’s a real love song to the written word and paper books. For lovers of Douglas Adams and John Scalzi.
Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson, (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250807342, June 2022)
Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia
This graphic novel combines three different storylines, each designated by one of the primary colors. There is a story of love, a story of loneliness, and a story of longing. Ostby’s unique use of color perfectly mirrors the emotions expressed within each storyline, and the manner in which they are intertwined feels like fitting puzzle pieces together.
Space Story by Fiona Ostby, (List Price: $16.99, West Margin Press, 9781513128757, June 2022)
Reviewed by Grace Quinn, Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina
Good grief I loved this book. The Glass Hotel makes more sense now, but I already loved it anyway. Nobody does time “travel” like Emily St. John Mandel. She manages not to lose us in the weaving of the timelines and characters. Despite being set in both the past and the future, the themes are so timely. A pandemic, wealth inequity, the idea of home, the role of art in society, family dynamics–it’s all there, plus there are colonies on the moon and maybe we’re all living in a simulation. It might seem like a stretch, but I think her only peer in speculative fiction is Margaret Atwood herself..
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. Mandel, (List Price: $25.00, Knopf, 9780593321447, April 2022)
Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina
This book was exactly what it needed to be. It’s fun, it takes familiar ideas about kaiju and puts a fresh spin on them, and adds in entertaining characters who care about what they do. It’s so very much an antidote and relief from things taking themselves too seriously, but landed the narrative beats when it needed them. Here, Scalzi show the artistry of solid craftsmanship, and I want more.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Books, 9780765389121, March 2022)
Reviewed by Alex Mcleod from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL
Arabella is the last girl on earth, well as far as she knows. A terrible virus wiped out many children and women, and no one’s sure why. When her father tells her to run “back to the beginning” she tries to make her way home only to be captured by the infuriating and handsome Kaden. While she might not like him, she’ll have to ally with him to find what her father wanted her to know. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel! While this book was a quick and easy read, I really enjoyed the plot and find myself looking forward to the next one!
The Last She by H. J. Nelson, (List Price: $17.99, Wattpad Books, 9781989365717, December 2021)
Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia
Antiquity Grey is born into the life of an outcast. “Grey-shamed” by the rulers of her city, and bullied by other members of her community, she is determined to prove her worth. With the help of friends and former enemies, she takes on the greatest threat of all; The Imperium. This was a fast-paced thrill ride through a climate-changed world filled with giant robots and bad guys with swords and laser guns. Myth and tech collide, creating the perfect recipe for a science fantasy adventure.
The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman, (List Price: $28, Grim Oak Press, 9781944145699, November 2021)
Reviewed by Sophie Giroir, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana
The robot Mosscap is the first to return from from the wilds to ask the question, “What do humans want?” The tea monk, despite their vocation of helping others by listening to problems while serving tea, feels unqualified to answer – and unmoored in their own life. This novella is an inspiring meditation on purpose and meaning set in an interesting world with a great first-contact frame.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, 2021-07-13)
Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina
Dare to Know starts with a fascinating sci-fi speculation: what if science could pinpoint the exact date and time of your death? That’s an intriguing proposal; however, this novel isn’t satisfied by simply exploring this question. What could have been a societal sci-fi story turns into something else entirely—a personal and riveting horror story full of terrors like sagging careers and failed relationships, oddly specific Gen X fears (bearded 1970s hippies and Don Henley songs), and universal horrors like death and the end of the world. This novel was frightening and smart and it made me think.
Dare to Know by James Kennedy, (List Price: 22.99, Quirk Books, 9781683692607, September 2021)
Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama
One minute Jenny is on a flight in 1995, the next she’s disembarking a plane in the year 2020 to find that everybody she knew is now 25 years older. In a world dominated by technology and social media, Jenny becomes the focus of unwanted attention from FBI investigators, the media, and a growing number of conspiracy theorists. Your Life Has Been Delayed is a thought-provoking examination of how time affects us all and the things that stay constant in life.
Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason, (List Price: 17.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547604081, September 2021)
Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
I don’t typically read sci-fi but on a recommendation from a fellow team member on the podcast What Should I Read Next, I read “A Long Way to a Dark Angry Planet”. With this title, I believe that I will read anything Becky Chambers’ writes. This novella was WONDERFUL! It was just what I needed this weekend; engaging but comforting. I cried at the end; it was the release I didn’t know I needed. Al of my friends need to read this because, as the dedication says, it’s “for everyone who needs a break”, and after the year we have had, we all need this break.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, July 2021)
Reviewed by Shannan Malone, The Snail On the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama
Tetley Abednego lives on a floating patch of trash (much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists here and now), the only solid ground left on a flooded earth. Tetley’s not alone but she is the only one who knows the simple, vital, and lifesaving truth that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world. The Past Is Red is an electrifying parable for this era of climate change, as bitterly optimistic and cheerfully furious as this dire hour demands. All that, and its hilarious and heroic protagonist is sure to steal that gorgeous garbage patch in your chest you call a heart.
The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250301130, 2021-07-20)
Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia
I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, June 2021)
Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina
“Thank you for your patience. We are all in this together.” Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a delightful ending to her Wayfarer’s series. In it five characters find themselves stuck together at the Five-Hop-One-Stop (a cross between a truck stop and a Bed and Breakfast) when the planet’s satellite system comes crashing down. As they get to know one another the characters must contend with issues of identity, the legacy of colonialism, sexuality, and family, with a few deadly crises along the way. After a year in various levels of lockdown, this book at times felt far too familiar, but with the lightness and comfort only a Becky Chambers novel can bring. I’m sad to see this series end, but it’s nice to be reminded that bureaucracy will lean on unwanted camaraderie no matter where one finds oneself.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (List Price: $16.99, Harper Voyager, 9780062936042, 4/20/2021)
Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina
A true continuation of Ishiguro’s question posed by Never Let Me Go: what does it mean to be human? Klara and the Sun uses a different futuristic device more common these days, humanoid companion AIs, in this Brave New World meets Black Mirror-esque narrative. With vague and growing details in the Ishiguro style he perfected in The Buried Giant, your discovery of the ultimate human question arrives in a moment of horror confronting the relationship between Klara (the AI), Josie (the child under this AIs care), and a portraitist with a strange mission. Josie is positioned as a sickly child in a mess of parental control over educational outcomes and the harsh world of the ethical implications when we long to hold on to the people in our lives just a little bit longer than nature allows. In beautiful simplistic prose, we converge on an intimate and fractured family holding on to the hope of a very scary and unknown world, daring to test the bounds of what it means to be human. This understated sci-fi drama will again change the way you view AIs and their place in the human paradigm, all the while falling in love with Klara and her concerted effort to simply comprehend humanity.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593318171, 3/2/2021)
Reviewed by Davis Shoulders, union ave books in knoxville, Tennessee