The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 23, 2021

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February 23, 2021

The White Mouse

Nancy Wake

"I swore I would never write about World War II"

Ariel Lawhon is a bestselling author who is known for her historical novels featuring women whom history has obscured or overlooked: the women of the household of a missing New York City judge, the stewardess and flight crew of the doomed Hindenburg, the story of the disturbed young woman who claimed to be Russian royalty. But World War II was an era she always avoided: "I thought all the amazing stories had already been told," Lawhon says to Wiley Cash in her appearance on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series.

Of course, anyone who reads history knows there are always more stories to be told. One day Lawhon was sitting in a hotel on book tour, when she received an email from the mother of a dear friend that basically demanded she write a book about Nancy Wake, an Australian war hero. "If you don't," the email said, "we can no longer be friends."

That email started Lawhon on the trail of Nancy Wake, aka "The White Mouse" -- journalist, nurse, spy, resistance fighter, and the most decorated woman in WWII and the only one to actually lead troops in combat. "She killed a soldier with her bare hands," Lawhon says, "how do you go from being a nurse to someone who can do that?"

See the interview here

What booksellers have to say about Code Name Hélène:

"This is a powerful and well-written story about a brave and gutsy woman who was totally amazing. I loved this fabulous historical fiction novel about spy Nancy Wake." -- Mary Patterson from The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, VA

"They say truth is stranger than fiction. In this novel about Nancy Wake, a socialite who became a leader of the French Resistance, it’s also more thrilling. A propulsive, action-packed rendering that captures the courage, intelligence, and heart of a hero who should be a household name. I can’t stop thinking about this book." --Erin Cox from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

Economy HallEconomy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood by Fatima Shaik
Thu Feb 25th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

FATIMA SHAIK, a former professor and journalist, is a trustee of PEN America and author of six previous short story collections and young adult novels. Economy Hall is her first nonfiction work.

Love at FirstLove at First by Kate Clayborn
Thu Mar 4th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Double RITA® nominee KATE CLAYBORN lives in Virginia, where she spends her days reading and talking about all kinds of great books. Kate loves to hear from and connect with readers—follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook. Visit her at to sign up for her newsletter.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

The Souvenir Museum


The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken
Ecco / April 2021

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Each of these twelve stories felt like a gift. Elizabeth McCracken has such insight into our ugliest, most deep-seated emotions that she dresses up with just a touch of delightful weirdness. Highlights include a story of a distraught mother finding comfort in challah bread that reminds her of her dead children; interconnected stories about a young couple working through various family baggage; and a story about two men confronting their fears of commitment and fatherhood during a day trip to Schlitterbahn (the iconic Texan German-themed waterpark, for those who don’t know). I tried to savor every story, but I couldn’t resist reading more than one every time I picked up this book!

--Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro

The titular main character in Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel (always a looked-for event!) is an artificial "friend" for her teenage owner in a future where robots and genetic engineering are commonplace and the current scientific research is focused on "recreating" (no, not "resurrecting") human beings.

"This isn’t some kind of weird fantasy,” Ishiguro says in a recent interview in The Guardian. “We just haven’t woken up to what is already possible today... we might start to be able to rebuild somebody’s character so that after they’ve died they can still carry on, figuring out what they’d order next online, which concert they’d like to go to and what they would have said at the breakfast table if you had read them the latest headlines.”

Raise your hand if you flashed to Carrie Fisher's posthumous speaking appearances in the latter movies of the Star Wars franchise.

Klara and the Sun

What booksellers are saying about Klara and the Sun

  • Such a mix of melancholy and wittiness; it's a gorgeous thing when an author can pull it off, and he can--Ishiguro can--every single time. --Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC

  • 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 --Davis Shoulders, Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN

  • Ishiguro never wavers in his erudite depiction of Klara. Her speech and thought patterns are totally consistent throughout. You believe in her, the irony of the story being that amongst this cast of characters she is the least artificial of them all. Future classic. --Chris Buxbaum, A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA

  • The ethics of advances in technology and artificial intelligence are present here, but it’s the truths about love, sacrifice, faith, and healing that resound on every page of Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize. -- Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

About Kazuo Ishiguro

KAZUO ISHIGURO was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain at the age of five. His eight previous works of fiction have earned him many honors around the world, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. His work has been translated into over fifty languages, and The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, both made into acclaimed films, have each sold more than 2 million copies. He was given a knighthood in 2018 for Services to Literature. He also holds the decorations of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from Japan.



Parachutes by Kelly Yand
Katherine Tegen Books / May 2020

More Reviews from Square Books

Parachutes is a story I won’t soon forget. This coming-of-age tale is told from the perspectives of teenagers Dani and Claire as they find their worlds turned upside down. Claire is ripped from her wealthy life in Shanghai to attend a high school in California where Dani is her new host sister. Claire finds herself quickly immersed in a new group of friends as she tries to adjust to her new life. But debate star Dani De La Cruz has problems of her own, and the two don’t exactly hit it off. However, they eventually find themselves leaning on one another as they tackle situations too big to handle alone.

--Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Good Apple


The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith
Scribner / July 2020

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More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

I listened to this on audio (from and really loved it. I’m a longtime lover of being outdoors, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I started growing potted plants on my own in earnest. This book highlights the ways in which gardening, in all its forms, has a demonstrably positive impact on your mind, your body, your relationships, and the world. Just a lovely tome no matter if you’re never planning to take care of plants or if you’re a master gardener.

--Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Temple Alley Summer


Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, Avery Fischer Udagawa (Trans.), Miho Satake (Illus.)
Restless Books / July, 2021

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More Reviews from Oxford Exchange

It’s summer break! There’s time for fun and friends, but Kazu has decided to investigate a paranormal occurrence tied to the history of his street, Temple Alley. As Kazu and his friends discover new clues about the past by talking to family members, nagging neighbors, and even reading ancient magazines, they realize that they might have to rely on their peculiar neighbor, Ms. Minakami, to solve the mystery. Complete with a story within a story, this summertime sleuth is mischievous and magical.

--Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange  in Tampa, Florida

The Gun


The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, Allison Markin Powell (trans.)
Soho Crime / January, 2017

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More Reviews from Copperfish Books

Imagine Edgar Allen Poe and Will Christopher Baer teaming up across space and time to rewrite Catcher in the Rye, but in Japan. What you’d get is The Gun. This one-sitting read is darkly engrossing, lyrically captivating, and a stunning debut from a now well-established author. Wow.

--Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Read This Next!

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

Red Island House


Red Island House by Andrea Lee
Scribner / March, 2021

More Reviews from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Beautiful, evocative writing propels a familial narrative through a journey of self-discovery and identity. The book follows Shay and her complicated relationship with her husband as they build and vacation in a sprawling estate in Madagascar over several decades. It is a novel of betrayal and class and colonialism, of race and culture and the social dynamics that underpin and threaten their marriage (and human society as a whole). As the clash of cultures and identity careens closer to Shay, she can no longer avoid making a choice about who she is and wants to be. With tinges of A Woman Destroyed, this is a story of finding your own foundational dignity in life’s wreckage.

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

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

My Year Abroad Just As I Am Code Name Helene
Wilmington's Lie The Project

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

"'The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive,' the civil rights activist wrote in his book"
-- Malcolm X,  The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

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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