The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of March 16, 2021

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March 16, 2021sbr logo

Tag! You're it!


The Southern Bookseller Review recently passed a milestone when it published its 250th bookseller review two days ago: Lala’s Words by Gracy Zhang. Angie Tally of The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines in North Carolina says:

Lala’s kind words, patience, and maybe just a little bit of magic make a tiny patch of dirt into a beautiful place in this delightful picture book that celebrates kindness, fortitude and gentleness. Perfect for Earth Day or every day, Lala’s Words will inspire young readers to plant seeds of kindness wherever they go.

Lala's Words

Lala's Words is tagged "Children" "Fantasy" and "Parents" -- it is the first book on the site to have that last tag. Tags are given to a book review by the publisher and the reviewer, and sometimes by the SBR staff.

To date, about 40 independent bookstores from 11 southern states have begun regularly publishing book reviews on SBR. Over 200 tags have been added to the site, from Action & Adventure to Young Adult. Some of the most popular ones are "Southern" "Romance" and "Historical Fiction." But it is the the less common tags that are perhaps the most intriguing: "Golf" "Dragons" "Afrofuturism" "Road Trips."

What's your favorite thing? There's probably a tag for that.

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

A Town Called SolaceA Town Called Solace with Mary Lawson
Tue Mar 30th 6:00pm - 7:00pm | REGISTER

Mary Lawson was born and brought up in a small farming community in Ontario. She is the author of three previous nationally and internationally bestselling novels, Crow LakeThe Other Side of the Bridge, and Road EndsCrow Lake was a New York Times bestseller and was chosen as a Book of the Year by The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others. The Other Side of the Bridge was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Lawson lives in England but returns to Canada frequently.

Wild Women and the BluesWild Women and the Blues with Denny S. Bryce
Thu Apr 1st 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

DENNY S. BRYCE is an award-winning author and three-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist, including twice for Wild Women and the Blues. In addition to writing for NPR Books and FROLIC Media, the former professional dancer is a public relations professional who has spent over two decades running her own marketing and event management firm. A member of the Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Novelists, Inc., she is a frequent speaker at author events. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Savannah, Georgia. Visit her online at

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

The Committed


The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Grove Press / March 2021

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More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

After the stunning and beloved debut of The Sympathizer, expectations were somehow surpassed with Viet Thanh Nguyen’s sequel. We are dropped right back into the two minds whose razor sharp criticism and empathy are now directed at the French. In a country that is often depicted as being devoid of contemporary racism, The Committed shines an unforgiving light on centuries of colonialist hypocrisy. A story of the dangers of ideology and the crucial role of humor in revolution, The Committed is everything I didn’t even know I wanted in a sequel.

--Lucia Drinkwalter, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn

Even after all these years it isn't easy to get the people who worked at Bletchley Park during the War to talk about what they did. Historical novelist Kate Quinn discovers this is true even when the people you are talking to are characters in your own book. "We all found ways of coping," one of them finally admits, "or else you’d end up in the infirmary on a three-day rest crying your eyes out."

Quinn, who had a medievalist for a mother, a jazz musician for a father, and -- fun fact -- studied Opera in college, has been slowly joining the modern world in her fiction. Her novels range from the sacking of Troy to the French Revolution. Her last three books, including the bestselling novels The Alice Network and The Huntress, are set in the theaters of two world wars. Known for her female-centric and character-driven historical fiction, Quinn has earned the devotion of bookseller fans no matter what epoque she chooses to write in.

The Rose Code

What booksellers are saying about The Rose Code

  • But even more amazing were the three characters that came to life in the pages of this book. If they were typical of the majority of women who worked at Bletchley Park, then no wonder historians say their efforts and work shortened the war by at least two years. A must read for anyone who loves character driven historical fiction. --Nancy McFarlane,  Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

  • Quinn weaves an engrossing tale of highly stressful complicated secretive work. Things go awry. There are issues and security breaches that involve these three so that friendship is lost and they become angry and estranged. And then there is betrayal! It is a riveting read and a mystery that must be solved. --Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL

  • Kate Quinn cleverly juxtaposes the Bletchley Park war years with a twelve-day countdown to the 1947 royal wedding of Philip and Elizabeth, making for a compelling tale. The novel is chocked full of complications and intrigue and is a thrilling piece of literature. --Beth O'Brochta, Book No Further in Roanoke, VA

  • You know those books that you start reading and Cannot. Put. Down?? This is definitely one. With so many WWII books out there, Kate Quinn manages to put a fresh spin on the war with The Rose Code and makes you feel like you're reading something new. -- Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshelf, Midlothian, VA

About Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. A lifelong history buff, she has written eight historical novels, including the bestselling The HuntressThe Alice Network, the Empress of Rome Saga, and the Borgia Chronicles. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

Broken in the best possible way


Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson
Henry Holt and Co., / April 2021

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More Reviews from E. Shaver, bookseller

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jenny Lawson is a genius. She can make me sob uncontrollably from both laughter and the heartbreakingly honest way she talks about mental illness. She takes the worst things in life and finds a way to laugh through them. Her ability to bring people together in a celebration of human awkwardness is just beautiful. This book provided much needed relief and escape from the divisiveness of the world.

--Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

How to Order the Universe


How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer (Trans.)
Tin House Books / February 2021

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

This book haunts me. I can’t stop thinking about it! “M” is a seven year old girl in Chile growing up with a father “D” who is a traveling salesman who sells hardware. Her mother is chronically depressed and, while loving, incapable of looking after her daughter much of the time. Told from M’s perspective, we go with her and D from place to place when he takes her out of school to go on his sales trips without her mother’s knowledge. She’s sort of his “buddy” and “junior salesman” traveling companion and it’s disturbing to see this child smoke and drink coffee in companionship with the other salesmen in the book. Ghosts of Pinochet’s Desaparecidos appear and disappear between the pages. It’s a book that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

--Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Ground Zero


Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
Scholastic Press / February, 2021

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More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

Alan Gratz, historical fiction go-to for middle school, has moved from WWII to more contemporary times with his newest novel Ground Zero. Told from the viewpoint of two teens on opposite sides of the globe, Gratz reframes the 9/11 story for the eyes and ears of young readers. This one is sure to be an instant bestseller.

--Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Hare


The Hare by Melanie Finn
Two Dollar Radio / January, 2021

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More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

The Hare hits all the notes for a great novel you will read obsessively. Melanie Finn has written the breathtaking story of the life of Rose Monroe whose entire trajectory was determined at age eighteen by a chance (?) meeting with an older man at MOMA. However, Bennett isn’t who he claims to be. Because of this, despite this, Rose grows into a powerful woman who isn’t diminished by her dire circumstances. She is a survivor. This brilliant book contains a subtext involving dark, abhorrent behavior.

--Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Read This Next!

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

Raft of Stars


Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff
Ecco / March, 2021

More Reviews from Sunrise Bookshop

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

This book was just what I, a somewhat jaded bookseller, needed right now. Many thanks to all who brought it to life. The character development is just about perfect. These are people whom we meet, come to know, come to care for, and eventually cheer for. I can’t say it’s the most original plot, but it was the most satisfying version of “kids in peril” that I can remember. The adults come together in surprising ways, each on his or her own Hero’s Journey, and end up becoming their best selves for the benefit of the boys. It’s a lot for a first novel, but it just works–it comes across as so earnest and good-hearted, completely un-ironic in the best way. The river is both a plot device and a metaphor, as the kids barrel toward their doom. It makes this character-driven novel a real page-turner. I will be an evangelist for this book.

– Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Bookshop in High Point, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

Klara and the Sun Dusk Night Dawn Deacon King Kong
Hidden Valley Roadm Green Eggs and Ham

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

“If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?” --Alice Walker

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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