By Dawn Reno Langley; Reviewed by Carolyn Burns Bass
Perhaps I should begin with a disclaimer. Dawn Reno Langley is a friend of mine and we are critique partners for each other’s work. I read her latest novel, The Mourning Parade, long before anyone else, and in several forms—most recently the audiobook performed by Tavia Gilbert.
Dawn and I had been exchanging pages of our novels for some time when she took a vacation to Thailand and came back exploding with a new story. She set aside the novel she had been working on and plunged into a new book about a woman who retreats to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary after losing her two sons in a school shooting.
Audible, that audacious audiobook arm of Amazon, brings another classic to life with Nick Offerman’s reading of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Offerman is best known for his portrayal of the cranky Ron Swanson of the acclaimed NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.
By Trenton Lee Stewart; Reviewed by Sarah Page
When I picked up The Secret Keepers I knew it was going to be a wonderful read, having read one of Trenton Lee Stewart’s previous works (The Mysterious Benedict Society), and was filled anticipation for this new release. After attending a book signing, during which Stewart told us all about his new book, I was even more excited for this story. It all starts when a young boy named Reuben Pedley, who enjoys exploring and climbing, discovers a strange artifact that holds powers that he could never have imagined. He begins a journey into a world of secrets, espionage, and danger.
By Helen Sedgwick;Reviewed by Billie Hinton
Helen Sedgwick’s The Comet Seekers is an absolutely beautiful novel: spare, elegant, and as full of light as the comets that offer its structure. Sedgwick, writer, editor, and a former research physicist, has a gift for language and metaphor. Her prose soars.>The story begins in 2017 and travels back and forth in time, spanning centuries that are marked by comets whose names and characteristics reveal personalities…
By John Claude Bemis; Reviewed by Sarah Page
It’s always interesting to read a new take on an old story. Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince, is the first part of a new series by John Claude Bemis featuring the familiar character Pinocchio. I was intrigued when I read the synopsis of the book online, and wondered how Bemis might have reimagined these well-known characters. I was slightly hesitant to choose this book because the story of Pinocchio has never really appealed to me. I am, now that I have finished it, glad…
By Joyce Hostetter; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
When critically acclaimed children’s book author Joyce Hostetter’s editor suggested she write a novel based in her own backyard, Hostetter spun a tale of the polio epidemic in Hickory, NC and called it Blue (2006). The main character had more to tell and Hostetter’s 2009 novel Comfort continues the story of Anne Fay dealing with the effects of polio, as well as her father’s return from WWII. Both novels were widely praised and won awards, but Hostetter knew there was more to these stories. A prequel to these two novels, Aim imagines the world before Blue…
By Eowyn Ivey; Reviewed by Mary Vensel White
To the Bright Edge of the World is Eowyn Ivey’s highly-anticipated second novel, another story set in the rugged and breathtaking expanse that is Alaska. Her debut, The Snow Child, was the tale of a pioneering, childless couple who build a little girl from snow and watch her magically come to life. Fans of Ivey’s touching, fairy tale first novel will find much to like in her new one, but it’s another type of story altogether.
By Monika Schroeder; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
Several weeks ago I attended Highlights Foundation Summer Camp and I’m still reflecting on the material I learned. One of the keynote addresses was by Susan Campbell Bartoletti which I blogged about here. In this review I use some of Bartoletti’s points to review Monika Schroeder’s latest middle grade novel, Be Light Like a Bird.
By Kathleen Burkinshaw; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
Twelve-year-old Yuriko has become accustomed to daily air raid drills and the sounds of American B-29s flying over Hiroshima. But even though the sounds are familiar, she is always worried. Will we actually get bombed? What if the school collapses? Will a desk actually protect me? Is my papa safe? How will I find him if a bomb hits us?
By Matthew Neill Null; Reviewed by Billie Hinton
Like the river that rushes through Matthew Neill Null’s prize-winning debut story collection, Allegheny Front is a thing of wild beauty. And while the writing is what won Sarabande Books’ Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, the physical book itself is a delight to hold in the hand: textured cover with big bold imagery, lush creamy pages, the perfect size and weight for ease of reading. Which is all beside the point when the stories inside are riveting and raw, rich and searing, with turns of phrase as clear and sharp as the masterful cracking of a whip….
By Shannon Kirk; Reviewed by Dawn Reno Langley
Vivienne Marshall’s chance to shop for the heaven she will call her own begins the day she is struck down, a victim of texting-while-walking. The 35-year-old relives her life and plans her afterlife during the course of this extraordinary (excuse the pun) novel by award-winning author Shannon Kirk.
The novel imagines a process that dying people embark upon, the last choice they actually make during their lifetime: the choice of what life after life will become. Vivienne’s images of heaven …
By Fiona McFarlane; Reviewed by Mary Vensel White
Fiona McFarlane’s first collection of stories, The High Places, follows the 2013 publication of her well-received novel, The Night Guest. Her debut was hailed as a meditation on isolation, identity and memory. It’s the story of Ruth, a widower living alone in an Australian beach house. She becomes convinced she sees a tiger, both outside and inside her house. Her mental state is questionable and this unpredictable narrator adds to the feeling of suspense as the story unfolds….
By Kathy Wiechman; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
Kathy Wiechman’s second historical novel, Empty Places, is well-researched, beautifully written, and evocative of time and place (the 1930’s in Harlan County, Kentucky).
Within the first few pages the reader meets spunky, 13-year-old Adabel Cutler who is trying her darndest to keep her family from falling apart. Adabel’s father is a coal miner who drinks too much and fights with her big brother…
By J. Albert Mann; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale, J. Albert Mann’s first young adult historical novel, is short but powerful. Spanning the course of just three days, Mann artfully alternates between Noah’s present predicament—he is wounded and is caring for a young wounded Indian—and the events leading up to it.
By T. M. Causey; Reviewed by Carolyn Burns Bass
T.M. Causey is no stranger to fiction. Writing as Toni McGee Causey, she is author of the critically acclaimed and best selling novel series featuring the zany Tammy Faye. Taking a wide turn from the quirky, non-stop action of her three Tammy Faye books, Causey’s latest novel, The Saints of the Lost and Found, goes into a dark place where some families have special paranormal gifts and though they share the strangeness of their abilities, they may or may not be trusted….