The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of 26 January, 2021

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January 26, 2021

5 more days.

The Southern Book Prize ballot will close on February 1st. Your vote enters you into a raffle to receive a full set of the SBP Finalists--fifteen books in all! Cast your ballot at

Can you guess which SBP Finalist books these bookseller reviews are about?

Civil and political history, culture, and legend combine to create a fantastical and horrifying story set in 1922 Southern United States, where a monstrous movement is spreading. This book was so compellingly vivid, thrilling, and powerful, and I'm so excited to pass along to readers. --Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

If Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Confederates in the Attic had a literary love child that somehow managed to be more strange than both of them put together, it would be this book. --Kelly Justice, Fountain Books, Richmond, VA

This might be my new favorite picture book! A wonderfully weird and completely hilarious story about the power of art and squids. --Zach Claypole White, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

This book was terrifying and vividly capturing. I had to put it down between chapters just to remind myself where I was. It's also hysterical; I laughed so hard I scared my neighbor's dog more than once. --Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

A story of racial and cultural divide that is brilliantly narrated in a collective voice with the feel of a Greek chorus. This important and competently crafted tale will provide fodder for book clubs and community discussions for years to come. --Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, SC

This is totally the queer Grease retelling you didn't know you needed in your life. This book gave me all the feels...I laughed, I cried, I was angry... I very much recommend. --Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Roswell, GA

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

Code Name HeleneCode Name Hélène with Ariel Lawhon
Tue Feb 9th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and a deranged cat.

Race Against TimeRace Against Time with Jerry Mitchell
Thu Feb 11th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Jerry Mitchell has been a reporter in Mississippi since 1986. A winner of more than 30 national awards, Mitchell is the founder of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. The nonprofit is continuing his work of exposing injustices and raising up a new generation of investigative reporters.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

Tales from the Hinterland


Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert
Flatiron Books / January 2021

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More Reviews from Square Books

Albert’s fairy tales are filled with the dark beauty and decay of withering roses and fog-filled forests. Many of them are nightmare-inducing but all of them are too enthralling to put down and I wondered if Albert may have bespelled me herself; her prose is that good. Tales from the Hinterland is for girls too covered in thorns for a traditional tale and for all who dream of a dark starless sky.

--Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Marsha is Magnetic


Marsha Is Magnetic by Beth Ferry, Lorena Alvarez (Illus.)
HMH Books for Young Readers / January 2021

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More Reviews from Bookmarks

How does a scientist create a party that people want to come to? In Marsha’s case it takes experimentation and the scientific method to draw people to herself with "magnetic" personality! Or “magnets.” Cheerfully busy illustrations of a delightful young maker at work.

-- Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Roman + Jewel


Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis
Inkyard Press / January 2021

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More Reviews from Story on the Square

Fans of Romeo and Juliet retellings will love this especially with the diverse characters! Jerzie Jhames is competing for a lead role for a hip hop Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet–Roman and Jewel. She falls short of her dreams and becomes the understudy for Jewel, while the lead title goes to celebrity actress singer Cinny. As Jerzie wallows in her disappointment, she meets Zeppelin Reid, the handsome lead actor for Roman. It’s love at first sight, and as they get to know one another, they begin their own Romeo and Juliet story. I love reading teenage black girls stories, especially about their first love!

--Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Hades, Argentina


Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel
Riverhead Books / January, 2021

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More Reviews from Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

What Loedel accomplishes in this astonishing debut is truly powerful. There’s a clear sense that a lot of time and care was taken in coming to this story–apparently inspired by the author’s actual half-sister Isabel. It’s this time and careful construction that helps Loedel achieve what fiction is best at doing when it’s done well–telling us truths about our own condition. The themes of grief, regret, loss, self-doubt, and betrayal are explored in a gripping plot that makes the book un-put-down-able. The story slips in and out of the irreal in a way that harkens to the greats of the post-Boom Argentinian literary landscape. There are clear notes of Borges, Cortázar, Schweblin, Heker and Harwicz, while maintaining a singular voice, and an indefinably North American sensibility. The result is a really satisfying marriage of the two literary traditions, lived out in a book that lingers inside you long after it’s done.

--Charles Lee, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
Random House / January 2021

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More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

Communication is a key ingredient to our daily life. Even choosing to avoid it says multiple somethings about us. Be the relationship cave painter and archaeologist or mother and son, down to the nanosecond most of us (speaker and auditor) repeatedly fudge it up. In that last sentence, for example, the subject choices and use of the word “fudge” paint both a true-ish and false-like picture of this reviewer. But this isn’t about me (or is it?). [Ahem] Through a panoply of pitch-perfect analogies, George Saunders puts the writer/reader at the reader/writer’s La-Z-Boy/typewriter. With hang-out-sesh tonality, he weighs the beauty in misunderstanding against how utterly frustrating it can be to simply get what you’re being told. Fans of Understanding Comics or How to Read Nancy might enjoy placing turn-of-the-century Russian masterpieces under the microscope. It’s been over a week since I finished A Swim… (not about me, eh, me?) and like a kid home from camp, not a day has gone by without a few thoughts of this deep moment or that fond element. All that’s missing from that analogy is me repeatedly checking the mailbox to see if George wrote me a postcard, but that would be a downer of an ending to this wonderful book’s review (not to be confused with a wonderful book review), so it’ll surely be edited out.

--Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Winter 2021 favorites from Southern indies...



The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / January, 2021

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More Reviews from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

Lyrical prose, a love story too long untold, and exquisitely rendered characters too long ignored make for a haunting debut. The forbidden love story between Isaiah and Samuel pierces every page, their lives reverberating across the plantation, through the ancestors, and history itself. Infused with agony and love and joy and rage, every character’s story within these testaments acts as a spark, a collection of embers that sets fire to historical record and ignites a more complex history of enslavement and the Deep South.

– Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

Kate Albus

When Kate Albus first read the Narnia books as a child, she was fascinated not just by the magic cupboard or the fauns and talking beavers, but by the historical event that led the Pevensie children to be staying in a strange old house with Professor Digory Kirke: the mass evacuation of children from London during World War II. "A million children being put onto trains to be cared for by strangers!" she says in a conversation with Crystal Maldonado.

That fascination was the seed of inspiration for her debut middle-grade book, A Place to Hang the Moon, where three orphaned children who take their fates into their own hands and are determined to find a place for themselves in the countryside.

A Place to Hang the Moon

What booksellers are saying about A Place to Hang the Moon

  • This is a heart-warmer! One of the most satisfying books I have read in a long time. --Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

  •  It’s a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa on a cold winter day. --Lauren Brown, The Story Shop, LLC in Monroe, GA

  • I fell in love with each and every one of Kate Albus' endearing characters. --Anderson McKean, Page & Palette in Mobile, AL

  • A deep and delightful story of what it means to be part of a family. Like hot cocoa on a winter day, this book will leave you cozy and smiling. -- Susan Williams, M Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers, Greenville, SC

About Kate Albus

Kate Albus grew up in New York and now lives with her family in rural Maryland. The already-dangerous pile of reading material on her nightstand grows daily. A Place to Hang the Moon is her first book. 


Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

Hamnet A Swim in a Pond in the Rain Interior Chinatown
Braiding Sweetgrass Eyes That Kiss the Corners

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

"I want to take my rightful share of life by force, I want to give lavishly, I want love to flow from my heart, to ripen and bear fruit. There are many horizons that must be visited, fruit that must be plucked, books read, and white pages in the scrolls of life to be inscribed with vivid sentences in a bold hand."

~ Tayeb Salih, Seasons of Migration to the North

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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