‘If the Creek Don’t Rise’

if creekThis debut novel has everything a reader wants: well-detailed characters, interesting settings, unexpected plot twists.

Leah Weiss has created characters that touch emotions, whether it’s Sadie Blue and her wife-beating husband, her cantankerous grandmother or the unexpected strength of a new, yet older school teacher. All the characters come together in the rural and mystery-laden Appalachian backwoods to fuel a novel that’s rich, honest and gritty.

Everyone in Baines Creek knows Sadie isn’t safe, but few have the physical or emotional strength to protect her. Life isn’t easy in their community. Those who can live, and the ones left behind – well, they get by the best they can.

All that changes when the preacher brings a new teacher to town. Kate Shaw is older than expected, and she comes with her own emotional baggage. She’s determined to make a place for herself in Baines Creek and to lend a hand to those who seem unable to help themselves.

Readers will find themselves wanting to know more about the characters, and Weiss feeds that hunger with well-developed back stories. The characters literally jump off the pages as they try to come to grips with how the past (superstitions) and the present (knowledge) work together to create a stronger community.

For this reader, the Creek does rise – all the way to top of my favorites list for 2017.

ARC provided by NetGalley


‘Manhattan Beach’

manhattan beachI wasn’t sure I would enjoy this novel since the time period is not one of much interest to me. Boy, was I wrong!

“Manhattan Beach” is so much more than a story set during the 1940s. Author Jennifer Egan has created a story that draws readers and holds their attention long after the last page is read. Thanks to the author’s detail character building, this novel is not only historical fiction, but it’s a tale of love, redemption, bravery and personal strengths and weaknesses.

The heroine is fascinating, standing out not only for her quest to become a diver in a man’s world, but for her strength to build her own life. The two men most important to her are different in their own ways, but similar in their fight to escape their past.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘Edgar and Lucy’

edgarVictor Lodato is a master of literature!

Who would have thought to make an 8-year-old albino boy the protagonist in a rich story about loss, forgiveness and personal growth? In “Edgar and Lucy,” it works as does the not-so-motherly role of Lucy who lives in the shadow of her husband’s death and the belittlement by her Italian mother-in-law Florence.

Edgar’s world is divided into two, before and after his doting grandmother dies. Without her protection, he’s alone both spiritually and physically. Despite their shortcoming, he and his mom are trying to cope, just not on the same page or wavelength. Lucy mourns for her late husband in her own way, while Edgar is left to look for signs of his deceased grandma.

Kindness, or what Edgar takes to be such, comes in the form of a man in a truck and a hidden mountain cabin. A prisoner, yet not a prisoner, Edgar learns that people and dreams don’t always look the same when brought into the daylight. Bad choices can come from good intentions, and the past can bring down the present – if you let it.

“Edgar and Lucy” touches on so many emotions and reaches so many depths that it becomes difficult to put into words. I cried. I laughed. I cussed. I was drained, yet I wanted more.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘In the Shadow of Alabama’

alabamaJudy Reene Singer has moved to the top of my “favorite authors” list with this novel. She has created characters that are deeply flawed, but each has hidden – and redeemable – values. Some of are difficult to like, but as Singer points out, you have to walk in an soldier’s boots before you know what war times have taken him.

Rachel Fleischer didn’t want to be there when her dad died. There was no love lost between. When a mysterious gentleman, an elderly black man who served in the military with her father, offers to tell her more about her dad, she reluctantly agrees.

What she discovers is that time changes a person – for better or worse. And that what you see may not even be the tiniest glimpse into a person’s past and how it shapes the present.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘Rabbit Cake’

rabbitAnnie Hartnett has put together a coming-of-age tale of a different sort with her novel “Rabbit Cake.” A mom, known for crazy rabbit-shaped cakes, drowns while sleepwalking. Or was it suicide?

Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt, a genius of sorts, aims to keep what’s left of her family together. That includes a suicidal sister and a dad who can’t get past wearing his dead wife’s perfume and other things, including a bathrobe. As Elvis searches for answers, she finds comfort (in various sorts) in her small town.

Hartnett brings her storytelling to life with quirky characters, oddities and a genuine sense of humanity.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘Allie and Bea’

allie“Allie and Bea” – what a wonderful story! Catherine Ryan Hyde, one of my favorite “feel-good” authors, has hit another emotional home run with this “run-away” tale of a new widow and an unexpected tag-along.

Bea hits the road in a cramped camper after she’s scammed out of all her savings. Allie hits the road after her parents are arrested for embezzling, which puts an end to her upscale life. How these two come together is quite a tale, and their adventures are nothing short of amazing.

Through it all, two generations come to understand one another as they learn to take the road less traveled. Thank you, Catherine Ryan Hyde, for another hit novel!

P.S. I can picture this as a motion picture! Who would be your choices for the major roles?

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘I’ll Stay’

i'll stayKaren Day delivers a tense tale of precaution in “I’ll Stay,” a novel about four college friends who carry the guilt of a long-ago vacation break nightmare.

Two friends of the four drift apart when they can’t break through the wall of shame after one stayed (Lee) and one left (Clare) one emotionally charged night in Florida. Years later, when the former classmates and friends gather for a wedding, can they face the truth about what happened?

The author presents characters carved by deep faults, but yet whose pieces fit together – most of the time. “I’ll Stay” is a look at how the past impacts the present and how redemption starts within one’s self.

ARC provided by NetGalley