The Comet Seekers

By Helen Sedgwick;Reviewed by Billie Hinton

the-comet-seekersHelen 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…

Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince

By John Claude Bemis; Reviewed by Sarah Page

The Wooden PrinceIt’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…

Aim

By Joyce Hostetter; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin

aimWhen 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

To the Bright Edge of the World

By Eowyn Ivey; Reviewed by Mary Vensel White

to-the-bright-edge-of-the-worldTo 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.

Be Light Like a Bird

By Monika Schroeder; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin

be-like-a-birdSeveral 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.

The Last Cherry Blossom

By Kathleen Burkinshaw; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
TheLastCherryBlossom

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?

Allegheny Front

By Matthew Neill Null; Reviewed by Billie Hinton
Allegheny Front

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….

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

By Shannon Kirk; Reviewed by Dawn Reno Langley
The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne MarshallVivienne 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 …

The High Places

By Fiona McFarlane; Reviewed by Mary Vensel White

The High PlacesFiona 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….

Empty Places

By Kathy Wiechman; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin

empty placesKathy 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…

Scar

By J. Albert Mann; Reviewed by Carol Baldwin
ScarScar: A Revolutionary War TaleJ. 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.

The Saints of the Lost and Found

By T. M. Causey; Reviewed by Carolyn Burns Bass

The Saints of the Lost and FoundT.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….

The High Mountains of Portugal

By Yann Martel; Reviewed by Mary Vensel White
The High Mountains of PortugalFans of Yann Martel’s international bestseller, Life of Pi (2001), will find many familiar elements in his new novel, The High Mountains of Portugal. Once again, Martel plumbs the relationship between storytelling and truth and mixes tragedy with healthy doses of humor. There is another leading character from the animal kingdom; religion and faith are integral themes. But The High Mountains of Portugal is a more difficult, less cohesive read, and will no doubt produce polarized reactions.

The novel is divided into three dissimilar parts….

Finding Jake

By Bryan Reardon; Reviewed By Linda Lindsey Davis
finding jakeIn Bryan Reardon’s Finding Jake, Simon and Rachel Connolly are like many other married couples: they have a house in the suburbs and two children. They differ from other couples in that they made the decision 18 years ago for Simon to shift his writing career to be the stay-at-home parent caring for their children, and Rachel, an attorney with a major law firm, would be the one who commuted to work in the city. Their story is told from Simon’s point of view, as he reflects on being a stay-at-home father.

Seventeen years ago, when Jake was born, and then three years later when his sister Lanney arrived, Simon learned to accept being the only father on the children’s playground…

The Santa Claus Man

By Alex Palmer; Reviewed by Carolyn Burns Bass
The Santa Claus Man, #LitChatIt all began with the dead letters department at the New York City post office. Every year letters to Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and other derivatives of the name, were destroyed as undeliverable mail per the policy of the U.S. postal department. In 1911 that policy changed and the New York City postmaster sent out a call for someone to receive all of the Santa Claus mail on behalf of the city’s children. A couple of years went by before John Duval Gluck, Jr. acted on impulse and stepped up. In 1913, fresh off an arrest and fines from his part in promoting the first and only bullfight in New York City, Gluck saw an opportunity to restore his reputation, bring joy to poor children on Christmas, and provide a lifestyle of prestige and privilege. The International Santa Claus Association was formed and Gluck became known as New York’s Santa Claus.