The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Women

Spotlight on: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

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Kate Clayborn, photo credit Kate Clayborn

I have to be honest—I had a friend fic! It was a notebook I shared with two close friends during my first year of high school. We would write these stories to each other and pass the book back and forth. In Georgie, All Along, she and her best friend do the same, although their version of it is a little more focused than mine was—young Georgie and her best friend are very focused on imagining the perfect versions of their lives once they get to the new high school they’ll be attending. My friends and I, I’m embarrassed to say, were far more focused on our celebrity crushes! But I was really inspired by that hopeful, imaginative experience of my teenaged self—I wanted to think about what that notebook represented about the experience of growing up.” ―Kate Clayborn, Interview, Above the Treeline

 

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

What booksellers are saying about Georgie, All Along

  • Clayborn, All Along! She never disappoints. With supportive, but odd-duck parents, Georgie has always had a “soft” place to land and as a result is “expansive”, so much so that she has a hard time focusing in on what she wants in her life and her future. Levi had no such parents, with no support network from his family when he needed them most, and as a result has made himself tight and small in his life and his wants/needs. When they meet, they learn to let go of their past and with her as his “soft place to land” and he allows himself to expand into himself and she learns to trust her own self and what she truly wants.
      ―Angela Trigg from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn’s books come with high expectations of an excellent story. She always delivers, and Georgie, All Along is no different. The writing is engrossing and diverting and it’s impossible not to relate to or love Georgie as she finds herself and her way. January is rich with romance, and this is an excellent winter read to curl up with.
      ―Preet Singh from Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, GA | Buy from Eagle Eye Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn hits a home run with Georgie, All Along. I loved this relatable story about a woman coming home to find herself and reconnect with the dreams she had in high school. She’s a quirky mess who puts everyone’s needs before her own and she meets Levi, the brooding older brother of her high school crush, who also has a past he’s working through. I enjoyed the small town setting, the cast of characters and the nostalgia of revisiting high school escapades.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • A charming and witty story about how our pasts can shape us. Unexpectedly, Georgie, a personal assistant that has just lost her job and Levi, onetime town troublemaker, find themselves as roommates. They are both trying to reinvent themselves and use Georgie’s high school diary as a blueprint for their transformation. Georgie did not write in her diary about what was happening then, but her dreams and wishes for the future. Georgie and Levi have great chemistry and of course there is a great dog, Hank.
      ―Pam Crawford from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Kate Clayborn

Kate Clayborn is the critically acclaimed author of contemporary romance novels. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Bookpage, and more. By day she works in education, and by night (and sometimes, by very early morning) she writes contemporary romances about smart, strong, modern heroines who face the world alongside true friends and complicated families. She resides in Virginia with her husband and their dog.

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Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli

This is such a beautifully written story. The characters are so wonderfully honest and real. You are truly immersed in Eve’s world, you feel her pain and confusion. This is the story of one woman’s journey through grief and guilt after her husband takes his own life. Written like a memoir, straight from Eve’s thoughts and feelings, we follow her through every up and down, her highs and her lows. This is a beautiful reminder about the struggles of mental illness and the hidden pain of those around us. This is a must read!

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli, (List Price: $27.99, Graydon House, 9781525899805, September 2022)

Reviewed by Makayla Summers, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Spotlight on: Drinking Games by Sarah Levy

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Sarah Levy, photo credit Sarah Levy

You know, I think that my lies were always designed to make everyone think that I was okay, and to make it seem like I had it all figured out, and that everything was perfect. The meat of the book — the story that I really set out to tell — was the truth. It was that I wasn’t okay, I was not perfect, and that I was struggling. I think that my friends and family, even now, if I say, “I’m fine. Everything is good,” that’s usually when I’m not telling the truth, because I’m a human being, and there’s usually something going on.” ―Sarah Levy, Interview, Shondaland

 

Drinking Games by Sarah Levy

What booksellers are saying about Drinking Games

  • Drinking Games is an unflinchingly honest look at how alcohol influenced almost every part of Sarah Levy’s life as a twenty-something living big in New York City. Levy shares her experiences like sharing with a friend, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always with insight and grace. A must read for anyone who’s questioned not only choices about alcohol but about anything that makes their life feel out of control.
      ―Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • I loved Sarah’s very frank and honest recount of her relationship with alcohol. Her self aware and candid writing will be a much needed voice for many who are re-considering the way we look at drinking as a culture. It is also a fantastic memoir about making hard changes for a better life.
      ―Laura Taylor from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Sarah Levy brings you on her journey of why she got sober, how she found help, and celebrating her new sober life. It felt like chatting with a close friend as she shared her fears about dating while sober and how is she going to celebrate life milestones without a glass of champagne. It was relatable and honest! I would recommend this memoir to anyone that was sober curious and wanted to discuss drinking culture in your 20s.
      ―Juliana Reyes from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Sarah Levy

Sarah Levy is a writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York. Her work examines the intersection of sobriety, relationships, and identity and has been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine/The Cut, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue, Elle, and other publications. She holds a B.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University and pursued a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The New School. Drinking Games is her first book.

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The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Lucrezia de Medici has been the least favorite child of the powerful Grand Duke of Tuscany since birth and so has been able to grow up almost in the shadows of the royal court in Florence. At thirteen, she is betrothed to the future Duke of Ferrara- in her dead sister’s place. At fifteen, she is married to him and sent away from the only home she has ever known to a troubled court with her new, and older, husband. She has no allies in this new place save one, her handmaid. Day by day, Lucrezia discovers the cruel nature of her husband; the depth of the problems he faces in his new role as Duke; an utter aloneness since she can’t trust anyone and, superseding all else, the immediate need for her to produce an heir to cement the throne of her new family. It is no surprise this is a New York Times best-seller and a Reese’s Book Club pick- it is a wonderful work of historical fiction, and O’Farrell proves once again she is a master at this genre.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593320624, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Anderson, Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

Cauley cleverly constructs a story about how disenfranchisement cultivates a daunting landscape. Anyone who has been forced to make a decision with limited choices will instantly connect with and root for the main character Aretha. Even if it’s a bit stressful to witness.

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley (List Price: $27, Soft Skull, 9781593767273, January 2023)

Reviewed by Eden Hakimzadeh, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

A January 2023 Read This Next! Title

Romantic love, familial love, and the love of place play out against the background of late 1950s – early 1960s civil rights era. After the loss of her last family member, Alice flees her former home and the overt racial and sexualized violence by the landowner. She disembarks by chance in an entirely Black town – and what is meant to be a brief stop on her way north becomes a new home. New Jessup rose back up from the swamp and from the ashes of a white race riot, and the town carefully maintains a very public anti-integration stance to protect itself from attention from the white side of town. When Alice falls for the son of a town founder, she slowly learns that her Raymond been involved in the civil rights actions in Montgomery – and his affiliation with a group that works towards desegregation elsewhere creates tensions within their love story. A beautifully written exploration of just some of the variety of opinions within the civil rights era Black community on freedom, equality, and safety.

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks (List Price: $28, Algonquin Books, 9781643752464, January 2023)

Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong

A beautifully odd and weird story, full of imagination, obsession, and layers upon layers of intrigue. Katrina Kim is living on the edges of life, barely able to afford her shared apartment, struggling with her temp job, and lowkey stalking her coworker Kurt. There’s something about him and his strangeness that compels her to watch him. Then one night she sees Kurt jump off a bridge, drawing Katrina into the mystery that was his life. I can’t recommend this strange book enough!

Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538723562, January 2023)

RReviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

It is an accomplishment when a novel can take on heartbreaking situations and also contain so much humor as well. Geeta’s husband left without a trace five years ago. All the villagers think she has murdered him. So when her women’s business loan group members start having problems with their drinking, abusive husbands, they naturally go to her to enlist her help in murdering them. A fun story about the ability of women friends to stick together and the joys of motherhood (not really). I will highly recommend this one.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff (List Price: $28.00, Ballantine Books, 9780593498958, January 2023)

Reviewed by Kathy Clemmons, Sundog Books in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

The Midwife’s Secret by Emily Gunnis

A wonderfully written book with an original idea. Weaving together 3 main storylines- you get into the intricacies of what an impact made long ago can do to a family, and what it can do to generations of a small town. The mirroring of the disappearances almost 60 years apart really sold me on the story. A great page-turner for those that love small-town hidden secrets set in the UK.

The Midwife’s Secret by Emily Gunnis (List Price: $12.99, Headline, 9781472272058, December 2022)

Reviewed by Olivia Meletes-Morris, Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island , South Carolina

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

Oh my goodness. I never thought any book would have me weeping more than A Little Life, but Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things broke that record along the floodgates. This is not to say the novel is a depressing one: in fact, its depictions of life-affirming, forever-friendships veritably burst with love and wit. Newman perfectly captures the confusing contradictions that accompany end-of-life care: the emergencies among the mundanity, the darkly hilarious moments that punctuate the slow-motion, eviscerating heartbreak. Some readers who’ve said goodbye to terminally ill beloveds may find that their wounds are too raw for this novel. I, on the other hand, read it a few months after cancer took a very close friend of mine and I found it to be incredibly cathartic. Many moments were eerily—no, magically!—similar to moments I shared with Becky toward the end. I underlined like mad and scribbled in the margins; more than once I started to make a mental note to share certain excerpts with Becky, knowing she’d recognize herself and our friendship in the words, then remembering she’s not anywhere I can reach her. Five stars. Pairs well with Kathryn Schulz’s Lost & Found and/or Janine Kwoh’s Welcome to the Grief Club.

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (List Price: $25.99, Harper, 9780063230897, November 2022)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

Meredith is a completely lovable and complex character that has faced and survived some unspeakable things. Claire Alexander beautifully creates characters that exude resilience in their own ways. I found myself cheering on Meredith, Fee, Celeste, and Tom…and hoping for their happiness. Meredith, Alone is a quick read that explores the hardships of life and the value of community, family and friendships. While some of the topics are quite heavy, there is also joy and hope and laughter and triumph. I thoroughlyloved this book and have already started recommending it to folks who loved Eleanor Oliphant and Where’d You go Bernadette!

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander, (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538709948, November 2022)

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

Spotlight on: Mr. Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe

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I suppose it’s typical of me that I zoom in on Billy Wilder in one of the most melancholy moments of his life, just when his star is on the wane and he’s trying to find a gracious way of becoming an elder statesman. I think it is more interesting to approach an artist through one of their flawed films, because a masterpiece speaks for itself. Whereas you watch Fedora and you think: ‘How did this film come to be? It is so peculiar, there must be a story there.” ―Jonathan Coe, Interview, The Guardian

 

Mr. Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe

What booksellers are saying about Mr. Wilder and Me

  • Told alongside a young woman’s coming of age as a film worker, this novella is a portrait of late-career Billy Wilder, after he’s made all the films you know and now worries that he’s out of touch – he remains haunted by the Holocaust, while his peers seemingly have moved on and are making movies that explore human pain and suffering instead of trying to alleviate them. It’s a gorgeously written and well-researched book, simultaneously a love letter to film and life’s pleasures and a compassionate warning about the dangers of nostalgia and the moral convictions that come with age.
      ―Akil Guruparan from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Calista is a young Greek girl hired by Billy Wilder as an interpreter while he is filming the movie Fedora in 1977 Europe. This is a coming of age story along with a tribute to Wilder, his movies, and his screenwriter friend Iz Diamond. I loved the book!  ―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina | Buy from The Country Bookshop

  • Last night, I was listening to an old episode of This American Life, one in which a reporter goes on the road with the then-92-year-old George Burns. Immediately I thought of Mr. Wilder and Me. As in that radio story, the protagonist in Jonathan Coe’s novel is a young woman who has the rare opportunity to spend long stretches of time with an aging entertainment legend who is, more than likely, in the midst of his last big project. Mr. Wilder and Me invites us to examine notions of creativity, relevance, and fame as well as our irresistible tendency to re-examine our lives, wondering what small shifts might have changed everything.  ―Janet Geddis from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia | Buy from Avid Bookshop

About Jonathan Coe

Jonathan Coe was born in 1961 in Lickey, a suburb of south-west Birmingham. His first novel, The Accidental Woman was published in 1987. His best-selling novels include What a Carve Up! and The Rotters’ Club (2001). He is the recipient of many prizes and awards, including both Costa Novel of the Year and Prix du Livre Européen. He won France’s Prix Médicis for The House of Sleep and Italy’s Premio Flaiano and Premio Bauer-Ca’ Foscari.

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Spotlight on: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

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People often ask how much of myself is in a book. Generally I say all of me and none of me. It’s dangerous to associate authors with their work. It’s fiction but the more you are engaged with your writing the more the readers are also involved. I think a reader needs the author to be invested wholly in the writing, otherwise it feels a bit like cheating, in a way.

I tend to get emotional towards the end of writing a book, because so much is coming together and the story feels as though it is going to work and do what I wanted it to do. I love endings – beginnings and endings are what I like most in fiction. ” ―Kate Atkinson, Interview, Women’s Prize for Fiction

 

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

What booksellers are saying about Shrines of Gaiety

  • Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words, combining laugh-out-loud wit with unexpected pathos. I gobbled up Shrines of Gaiety – which features a motley crew of characters in 1920s London, including a nightclub boss, a chief inspector intent on weeding out corruption in the police, a teenage runaway in search of fame, and a former WW1 nurse in search of said missing teenager – in just a couple of days.
      ―Jude Burke-Lewis from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi | Buy from Square Books

  • Atkinson’s latest novel sparkles with all her brilliance. Featuring deft character studies and a lack of sentimentality, this clever timepiece set in the roaring ’20s has an atmospheric mix of criminal and cop, ingenue and madame. Seedy SoHo has been the playground for the infamous Coker family for many years, and they must now defend their nightclub empire from attack by mysterious forces. Witty & wise, moving but never mawkish, this is Atkinson at the top of her game.  ―Maggi Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • Ma Coker, queen of London’s night club scene, is released from jail, at the beginning of this novel set against a London full of missing girls, many of whom worked at Coker’s clubs. Told from the point of view of Coker and her endless family members; as well as a librarian who works with a police officer to find the girls; and some of the girls themselves. Kate Atkinson is at her most imaginative in this thriller that’s almost as wild as the roaring 20s themselves..  ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia | Buy from Righton Books

About Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her 2013 novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and voted Book of the Year for the independent booksellers associations on both sides of the Atlantic. It also won the Costa Novel Award, as did her subsequent novel, A God in Ruins (2015), and was adapted into a critically acclaimed television series in 2022. Her bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. She has written twelve groundbreaking, bestselling books and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)

Reviewed by Cheryl Lafaye Lee, 44th & 3rd Bookseller in Atlanta, Georgia

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

A thought-provoking and riveting look at the difference between keeping things secret and keeping things private. Mad Honey is told in alternating voices and timelines by Olivia, the mother of Asher, and Lily, Asher’s new to town girlfriend. Both Olivia and Lily are familiar with starting over. Olivia by leaving an abusive husband and Lily by moving for her last year of high school. When Lily is found dead, all eyes focus on Asher as a likely suspect. The layers of both Lily and Olivia’s lives are revealed as the investigation and trial bring long-held secrets to light. This is a page-turner that will leave you wondering how far you would go to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult, (List Price: $29.99, Ballantine Books, 9781984818386, October 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Jane Michels, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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