“The Girls in the Stilt House,” by Kelly Mustian

Reviewed by Adele Annesi Longing, aspiration, and murder converge in rural 1920s Mississippi to link and forever shape the lives of two diverse teenage girls in Kelly Mustian’s haunting debut novel, The Girls in the Stilt House. Young runaway Ada Morgan vows never to return to the cruelty of her father’s house and her hardscrabble […]

“The Shaadi Set-Up,” by Lillie Vale

Reviewed by Tamatha Cain This delightful and deceptively deep romance delivers laughs, sighs, and heartfelt cheers as former sweethearts battle the past and the expectations of family to find their way to happily-ever-after. The prose is mouth-watering at times, as are the passages describing swoon-worthy food. When Rita, an Indian-American furniture restorer, signs herself and […]

November Read of the Month: “When Women Danced With Trees—35 Unexpected Stories,” by Marina Brown

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro Versatile, talented Marina Brown once more has written a stunning gem of a book with her collection of short stories in When Women Danced with Trees—35 Unexpected Stories (Gilberte Press 2021). Here, the extraordinary and the unexpected collide with the ordinary and the everyday. With the occasional appearance of magical […]

“Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe,” by Jodie Cain Smith

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Rodgers When Alabama author Jodie Cain Smith made her debut as a novelist a few years back with her haunting novel, The Woods at Barlow Bend, I knew Smith was an author to watch. Impressed by her ability to gain reader empathy and craft historic fiction that drew me right in, […]

October Read of the Month: “N.O.K.,” by Bruce Ballister

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro North Florida author Bruce Ballister takes his readers on a scenic, suspense-filled fast ride through the Forgotten Coast of north Florida, in N.O.K (May 2021). Myriad things about the state make it a perfect setting for crime novels, and Ballister deftly makes use of most of these: the heat, the […]

“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 […]