“Voice Lessons” by Karen Salyer McElmurray

Reviewed by Donna Meredith The sixteen essays in Karen Salyer McElmurray’s Voice Lessons are best savored one at a time, with deep breaths and pauses between readings to let the author’s soul and pain and voice seep into your bones. Her writing employs the best of creative nonfiction techniques, wheeling between subjects, then returning to […]

September Read of the Month: “The Committee,” by Sterling Watson

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro With eight books to his credit, Sterling Watson has long been a powerful author, but he raises the bar considerably in The Committee (Akashic Books 2020), a compelling historical novel about the havoc the so-called Johns Committee wreaked on the University of Florida in the late 1950s. With impeccable accuracy […]

“With Teeth,” by Kristen Arnett

Reviewed by Donna Meredith Kristen Arnett’s novel With Teeth (Riverhead Books, 2021) is a literary novel that bites. From the first scenes, it sinks its teeth in and refuses to let go. Yet it is a deeply troubling read. It left me wondering if some women, like the protagonist Sammie, might be born without mothering […]

“The Wrong Side,” by Robert Bailey

Reviewed by Claire Matturro The Wrong Side (Thomas and Mercer 2021) is very much a Robert Bailey legal thriller—which is to say it is a riveting book full of intrigue, last ditch chances, compelling characters, an enthralling, well-paced energetic story line, and a plot twist at the end readers won’t see coming. Bailey, as an […]

August Read of the Month: “Wayward Girls,” by Claire Matturro and Penny Koepsel

Reviewed by Donna Meredith What dark secrets lurk behind the walls of Talbot Hall for Girls? Which adults might prove allies of the teens—and which ones can’t be trusted? Can the girls even trust each other? Sizzling with tension and intriguing characters, Wayward Girls, by Claire Matturro and Penny Koepsel, is set in a creepy […]

“Pop: An Illustrated Novel,” by Robert Gipe

Reviewed by Julia Lindsay Pop closes out Robert Gipe’s Appalachian illustrated novel trilogy with a wonderfully queer and apocalyptic coda. It ties up loose ends from the two previous novels that share the same subtitle, Trampoline (2015) and Weedeater (2018), while still acknowledging that life is not neat, that not all loose ends can be […]

“Writing Appalachia,” edited by Katherine Ledford and Theresa Lloyd

Reviewed by Charley Hively In his 1949 semi-autobiographical work The Thread that Runs So True, Jesse Stuart struck a resounding chord which still resonates today.  Set against the backdrop of rural Kentucky, Stuart recounts his 20-year career as a schoolteacher, a man horribly afraid of failure, but just as doggedly determined to succeed.  His almost […]

“When Stars Rain Down,” by Angela Jackson-Brown

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro When Stars Rain Down (Thomas Nelson April 2021) is a delicate yet brave coming-of-age novel by Angela Jackson-Brown. Delicate in its tenderness and kindhearted embrace of its characters and their culture, the book is warm, loving, and evocative in its depictions of family life in the Deep South. It also […]