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Find hundreds of great books—from the hottest new releases and bestsellers to tried and true classics to rare gems—each hand-picked and hand-curated from Southern indie booksellers' websites, newsletters, emails, facebook and twitter posts and from the moments when they stop us in the street, push a book in our hands and say…"YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS!"


RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

Big Lies in a Small Town

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick


Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Big Lies in a Small Town is the story of the artist Anna Dale in Edenton, NC in 1940. It is also the story of the artist Morgan Christopher in Edenton, NC in 2018. Each story is a fascinating look at a small Southern town including the social mores that prevailed. Each story is a fascinating character study of women who have faced tragedy and hardship and how they overcame it. Each story is a story of love and friendship. Each story could have stood on its own but they are woven together brilliantly to produce a novel that will make you just as curious as Morgan was to find out what happened to Anna and why in the world did she paint such gory things into a mural that was supposed to be hung in the town post office as a representation of the town of Edenton. If you love great Southern fiction, if you love a mystery, if you love rich characters, and if you love history and art you will not want to miss this fabulous novel.


Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

This caught my eye because it's my usual fave (twisty mystery!) and it's set in Edenton, NC--a tiny coastal town where my in-laws happen to live. I love the town so I knew I'd love a book set there and I was right. This story stands on its own even despite the family connection and I was taken by it from the start. Morgan is released from a prison sentence under the condition that she restores an old mural from the 40s that has been badly damaged. She has no background in art restoration and is surprised to find out that she was chosen by a late artist she had admired but never met, and his conditions were strict so she has no choice but to accept. Anna, the original artist on the mural, tells her half of the story in flashback alternating chapters. We learn that she was chosen to paint the mural over some local artists and she has to deal with that fallout once she arrives in town to start work. She takes on some students to assist and becomes close with one in particular. Anna's story takes us down a dark path of racism and violence in the small town and as Morgan works on the mural, Anna's secrets unfold in a twisted, sad tale. The characters in the book leap off the page and weave a tale of family, friendship, death, and despair that will keep you glued to the pages until the final secret is revealed.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

Diane brings to life two strong women in different times struggling against the constraints they have imposed on themselves. Morgan Christopher takes the fall for a crime she did not commit, and is serving a three-year stint in a North Carolina prison. Desperate to leave prison she agrees to restore a mural in a small town, shrouded in secrets. What she finds under the layers of years of dirt and neglect is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, a conspiracy and maybe clues to a 1940s disappearance of the original mural painter. Diane writes with such a keen eye to detail and this book will take you for a ride while making you understand the why of someone's mistakes.


Sunrise Books, High Point, NC

Switching between 1940 and 2018 in the small town of Edenton, NC, this story slowly unfolds to reveal the slow decline (into insanity?) of artist, Anna Dale, (1940). Anna was from New Jersey, and some folks felt she had no place painting a mural depicting their small Southern town; especially when they had a talented local artist! Anna bucks against the social racism of the day when she "hires" a young African-American teen to help in her work, and runs afoul of the "movers and shakers."

Morgan Christoper, just released from prison (2018), is given the job of restoring the mural that Anna painted decades ago. Chosen for the job even though she has NO experience in art restoration, and there is a nearly impossible deadline imposed on the completion of the restorative process. Seems a set-up for failure, but failure is not an option for many reasons. Diane Chamberlain delivers another superb novel for her loyal followers!

Just Like a MamaJust like Mama would, Mama Rose makes sure Olivia learns to ride a bike, has her hair braided just so, and that she plays outside every day. Just like Mama would, Mama Rose tells Olivia one day she will grow her own wings and fly, and Just like Mama, Mama Rose tells Olivia she is loved. Just Like a Mama is the perfect way to honor everyone who fills the gap when Mama cannot always be there.

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator) (List price: $17.99, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

Dark and Deepest RedThis lush and lovely novel has heartbreaking prose, gorgeous imagery, and a story that connects ancestors through threads of red satin. McLemore's razor-sharp focus cuts through the inherent racism of small-town superstition; even in a town with a magical "glimmer," darker skinned people are held at arms length and watched with suspicion. This book, as all McLemore's books are, is for outsiders bereft at the close-mindedness of the status quo and provides substantial comfort that no one is alone.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna Marie McLemore (List price: $17.99, Feiwel & Friends), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

TITLEAs the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his parents and brother, Edward Adler has a difficult path to navigate. Learning to live in a world without his parents and brother, finding a new home with his aunt and uncle, and grappling to figure out what his own future will look like, Edward's journey is a heartbreaking and hopeful story. I was immediately drawn into this book and couldn't stop reading until I finished, and I can't wait to share Dear Edwardwith readers.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (List price $27.00, The Dial Press), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

TITLEI usually don't laugh out loud while reading but this book had me at a whole new level. Hilliard weaves her journalism background with her messy childhood to produce a surprisingly well-researched memoir filled with food and admirable naiveté. I loved getting a glimpse into her hilarious, insightful world.

F*ck Your Diet by Chloé Hilliard (list price: $27.00, Gallery Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

Hill Women by Cassie ChambersAs someone raised in West Virginia, Hill Women struck a particular chord with me. Cassie Chambers delivers an honest narrative about the challenges of life in one of the poorest regions of the country while giving voices to the women who lifted up her life and the lives of those around her. Highlighting their unwavering work ethic, generosity, and fight for the younger generations, Chambers shows how growing up with the influence of these women in her family helped formed the person she became, eventually being educated at an Ivy League school and returning to the region to help provide legal assistance to the very communities in which she was raised. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the Appalachian region and for readers who enjoy insightful biographies like Educated.

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers (PRICE*, PUBLISHER), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

 A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

The Night Country

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Night Country by Melissa Albert
Flatiron Books | List Price: $18.99.


Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

The Hazel Wood was merely the introduction to the dark and sinister world of fairy tales that Albert so lovingly crafted, and The Night Country is the firing of the cannon and the explosion and aftermath that follows. Alice, as you know, was left stranded, essentially, in the real world, with nothing to really anchor herself to a life worth living. So if you're like me, you wanted to know what was next, you wanted to see Alice at least have some sort of happiness to her name, no matter how dark the story is meant to be. And Albert certainly delivers on everything you could ever want as a fan of the first book. It's a perfect middle and end to this world that we've adored since 2018, and maybe will continue to enjoy! However Melissa Albert sees fit, I'm positive she'll build us a story that's worthy of our wildest childhood dreams.


Square Books, Oxford, MS

Albert's world of unforgiving fairy tales swells to the perfect crescendo in this sequel to The Hazel Wood. Alice, an ex-Story, is trying her best to re-assimilate to a world that no longer feels familiar, while Ellery Finch is off exploring lands unknown. Alice may have left the Hinterlands behind, but the Hinterlands isn't done with her, and as other ex-Stories are picked off one by one, Alice will have to find the end of her tale, come ice, feather, or bone. The Night Country is a star-spun world of horror and wonder you'll want to live in forever.


Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

From the first page to the last, Melissa Albert's debut novel The Hazel Wood had me in its thrall and I've been pressing it into the hands of every fairy tale enthusiast who walks into the bookshop since! Well, Melissa Albert must be made of magic, because The Night Country is somehow even more thrilling, delightful, creepy, and full of surprises than its predecessor. Having escaped the Hinterland with the help of Ellery Finch, Alice Proserpine is back in gritty New York City, the only problem is that so are the other denizens of that dark world—and someone's murdering them one by one. Meanwhile, Ellery's trying to find a way out of the dying Hinterland himself…and a way back to Alice too. The Night Country builds off the world of The Hazel Wood beautifully, becoming a door to a vast, wonderfully constructed universe that gleams with magic like a blade glinting in the dark.


Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

If you enjoyed The Hazel Wood, don't miss following Melissa Albert into the dark and harrowing depths of The Night Country. In this new genre-bending novel, while expanding the universe we last encountered, Albert has managed to stretch the limitations of story itself. True thrills, horror, mystery, and more of the original fairytales we've come to expect await in this brilliant follow-up.


Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

The Night Country skirts between dark fantasy and horror. It takes the rich world building of The Hazel Wood and somehow makes it thicker, more viscous, until the reader is inevitably tangled up with Alice and Emory and the less than savory denizens of the Hinterlands. I loved every minute of it.