A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What's Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh- Feature and Review


Abducted as a teenager, a woman must now confront her past and untangle the truth of what really happened to her in this dark thriller from the author of The Wolf Wants In.

"Laura McHugh expertly delivers a harrowing tale of a world where little is what it first appears to be."--Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena

Seventeen-year-old Sarabeth has become increasingly rebellious since her parents found God and moved their family to a remote Arkansas farmstead where she's forced to wear long dresses, follow strict rules, and grow her hair down to her waist. She's all but given up on escaping the farm when a masked man appears one stifling summer morning and snatches her out of the cornfield.

A week after her abduction, she's found alongside a highway in a bloodstained dress--alive--but her family treats her like she's tainted, and there's little hope of finding her captor, who kept Sarabeth blindfolded in the dark the entire time, never uttering a word. One good thing arises from the horrific ordeal: a chance to leave the Ozarks and start a new life.

Five years later, Sarabeth is struggling to keep her past buried when investigator Nick Farrow calls. Convinced that her case is connected to the strikingly similar disappearance of another young girl, Farrow wants Sarabeth's help, and he'll do whatever it takes to get it, even if that means dragging her back to the last place she wants to go--the hills and hollers of home, to face her estranged family and all her deepest fears.

In this riveting new novel from Laura McHugh, blood ties and buried secrets draw a young woman back into the nightmare of her past to save a missing girl, unaware of what awaits her in the darkness.



What's Done in DarknessWhat's Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What’s Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh is a 2021 Random House publication.

In rural Arkansas, seventeen-year-old, Sarabeth, is abducted and held hostage for five days. She was miraculously found, but her abductor was never caught. Despite the horrendous trauma she endured, this event serves as a catalyst for her to finally escape her ultra-fanatical religious parents.

She left home, shortened her name to Sarah, and works at an animal shelter. She still lives with nightmares of being held hostage- by both her parents, in one way, and her abductor, in another. She worries about her little sister who is about to be married too soon, fated to a life Sarah only barely managed to escape, herself.

While none of her friends or colleagues are aware of her past, she is still tracked down by a highway patrol officer, named Nick Farrow, who works in the missing persons division.

He calls Sarah asking for her insights and help in the abduction of a sixteen-year-old girl. The kidnapper’s modus operandi is eerily like Sarah’s experience, but initially Sarah is reluctant to get involved.

Gradually, Nick coaxes Sarah into helping him- which also prompts her to visit her sister- hoping to save her from the life her parents have forced upon her.

Oh, wow. Laura McHugh knows how to weave a taut, pulse-pounding tale of suspense! The Gothic tones of her novels are pitch perfect, and this one is no exception.

There is a heavy atmosphere, a strong sense of foreboding that kept me riveted to the pages. It’s edgy, but also a personal triumph for our heroine. Sarah’s is braver and stronger than she knows.

Her courage is what brings her case and other ones to light- and although she must accept that there are things she can’t change, she can live her best life- and live by example.

Nick and Sarah made a good team- and hopefully, we’ll see them team up again someday.

Overall, this is another great effort by McHugh. It’s a short novel, but it really packs a punch!


Laura McHugh is the author of The Weight of Blood, winner of an International Thriller Writers Award and a Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel, and the Missouri Author Award for Fiction. The Weight of Blood was named a Best Book of the Year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star, and the Sunday Times (UK), and was also nominated for an Alex Award, Barry Award, and GoodReads Choice Award (Best Mystery and Best Debut). Her novel Arrowood was a finalist for the 2017 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel, and The Wolf Wants In was named one of the best books of 2019 by Library Journal. What's Done in Darkness will be published June 22nd, 2021.

A lifelong Midwesterner, McHugh lives in Missouri with her husband and children.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery- Feature and Review



From the best-selling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog comes a story about a woman's journey to discover the father she never knew and a love she never thought possible.

Rose has just turned forty when she gets a call from a lawyer asking her to come to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father's will. And so for the first time in her life she finds herself in Japan, where Paul, her father's assistant, is waiting to greet her.

As Paul guides Rose along a mysterious itinerary designed by her deceased father, her bitterness and anger are soothed by the stones and the trees in the Zen gardens they move through. During their walks, Rose encounters acquaintances of her father--including a potter and poet, an old lady friend, his housekeeper and chauffeur--whose interactions help her to slowly begin to accept a part of herself that she has never before acknowledged.

As the reading of the will gets closer, Rose's father finally, posthumously, opens his heart to his daughter, offering her a poignant understanding of his love and a way to accept all she has lost.


A Single RoseA Single Rose by Muriel Barbery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery, Alison Anderson (Translation) is a 2021 Europa Editions publication.

This lushly written novella length story profiles the reexamination of Rose’s distant and estranged relationship with her father, who has recently passed away. Rose travels to Japan, planning to stay only long enough to discover the contents of her father’s will.

Her host for the duration of her visit is Paul, her father’s assistant. As Paul leads Rose through Japan, her resentfulness towards her father begins to soften, as she examines her own life and tendencies, reflecting on her upbringing and her father’s legacy.

This is a poignant story, mingled with whimsy, and a wry sense of humor. The writing style might not appeal to all readers, as it is ‘flowery’ – quite Literally.

That said, I loved the allusions and allegories, and the writing was fitting complemented the themes of the story.

Overall, this a lovely story, a wondrous journey, and reawakening for Rose, with a hint of a more contented and fulfilled future.




Muriel Barbery (born 28 May 1969) is a French novelist and professor of philosophy.

Friday, September 24, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY Social Creature by Tara Isabelia Burton- Feature and Review


For readers of Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt, a dark, propulsive and addictive debut thriller, splashed with all the glitz and glitter of New York City.They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them... They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste...

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.



Social CreatureSocial Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton is a 2018 Doubleday publication.
Unorthodox – but very effective!
Louise Wilson is one birthday away from thirty, working three jobs to stay afloat, living a dull, uneventful life. Through a tutoring job, she meets Lavinia, a rich young woman taking a break from her ivy league education. Lavinia pulls Louise into her vivid, and lavish world, all of which is expediently documented on social media. Louise caters to Lavinia’s every whim which earns her a chance to be her roommate and live a far more comfortable and exciting life. But, keeping Lavinia happy is nearly a full- time job, causing Louise to lose her real jobs, one by one. To stay in Lavinia’s world and maintain her new lifestyle, Louise will make some terrible decisions, getting in deeper and deeper, only to discover Lavinia may be looking to replace Louise with someone else. There is only one option left for Louise, but will she really go through with it? Can she pull it off and if so- for how long?

I had heard a few wild and crazy stories about this book, which of course meant I had to read it to see what all the fuss was about. While I knew going in the book was ‘off the beaten path’, I never could have imagined just how far off the path it would go.

First of all, the book gets high marks because of its originality. We have an unusual, unnamed narrator who tells the story from hindsight, dropping big and small hints along the way about what will happen next. This is a unique approach, very seductive, pulling the reader in, even if they aren’t especially enthralled with the lead characters. Social consciousness, sympathy, empathy, or the slightest regard for other people never even enters their minds. They are all shallow, immature, greedy, and weak in one way or another. But, despite that, I sat there turning pages, totally absorbed in the cat and mouse game that ensues, all the while thinking these people weren’t really worth my time or effort.

But, of course, I did enjoy spying on these two women, and the inner circle of people surrounding them, as they posture and preen, backstab, and jockey for position, because it has an atmosphere of reality to it. Our society is so fixated on social media and creating an impossible image of themselves for others to admire. It’s all so phony, and easily manipulated. But, there really are lots of ‘Louise’s’ out there, too. While we can view Lavinia and her friends with a certain detachment, for Louise, who is lonely and insecure, barely scraping by, this lifestyle that Lavinia as invited her into, is more than she could have hoped for and she’s desperate to maintain it- at any cost. It’s a sad commentary, and a very realistic one on many levels.

While the story starts off a little slow, the second half of the book is riveting, and the suspense is nearly unbearable at times. However, there is a slight satirical tone to the story at times, with a touch of black humor thrown if for good measure.

For those who detest a novel filled with unredeemable characters, this one will test your patience, but the author takes it a step further by throwing in an unsettling conclusion that is sure to frustrate those who like everything all tidied up the old- fashioned way. But, then there are people like me who see the irony in it, the truth in it, and absolutely revel in all that darkness and uncertainty.

So, while this book may not be the right fit for everyone, and the writing was a bit uneven in some spots, I thought it was ingenious. I’ll be keeping my eye on this author.





TARA ISABELLA BURTON is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Winner of the
Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for Travel Writing, she completed her doctorate in 19th century French literature and theology at the University of Oxford and is a prodigious travel writer, short story writer and essayist for National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist's 1843 and more. She currently works for Vox as their Religion Correspondent, lives in New York, and divides her time between the Upper East Side and Tbilisi, Georgia. She is also at work on a nonfiction book on cults. Her first novel, Social Creature, is forthcoming from Doubleday in June.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie- Feature and Review


The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show.

Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid's place at the festival, it almost doesn't seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse's disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born.

Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry's sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse's music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time.

Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?



Songs in Ursa MajorSongs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie is a 2021 Knopf Publishing Group publication.

It was the summer of ’69…

That’s the whole story right there.

Off the coast of Massachusetts, on a remote island, the Folk scene is creating a buzz. Jesse Reid, a good looking and wildly popular singer is slated to appear at the big music festival on the island, but is injured in an accident shortly before he was set to take the stage.

Shoved into Jesse’s spot, local musician, Jane Quinn, faces a restless and angry crowd. Despite the rocky start, she not only survived the night, but managed to get herself noticed in the process.

While Jesse is recovering on the island, he and Jane become close, and Jane’s band ‘The Breakers’ are even tapped to open for Jesse’s upcoming tour- although Jane wants to keep her relationship with Jesse on the down-low so she'll be judged by her own merits.

It’s a heady time- but things don’t work out as well as Jane hoped, which turns out to be a catalyst for her creative juices, prompting her to write her breakthrough masterpiece- Songs in Ursa Major.

This is a quick read, somewhat based on the real- life affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It’s also an expose on the double standards in the music industry that Jane had to cope with.

This story feels nostalgic and occasionally melancholy, but it is also a story of tenacity and triumph, and a profile in the conflict of success and fame.

A solid debut!



EMMA BRODIE has worked in book publishing for a decade, most recently as an executive editor at Little, Brown's Voracious imprint. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars program, and is a longtime contributor to HuffPost and a faculty member at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog, Freddie Mercury.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

What You Can See From Here by Mariana Leky - Feature and Review


On a beautiful spring day, a small village wakes up to an omen: Selma has dreamed of an okapi. Someone is about to die.

Luisa, Selma’s ten-year-old granddaughter, looks on as the predictable characters of her small world begin acting strangely. Though they claim not to be superstitious, each of her neighbors newly grapples with buried secrets and deferred decisions that have become urgent in the face of death.

Luisa’s mother struggles to decide whether to end her marriage. An old family friend, known only as the optician, tries to find the courage to tell Selma he loves her. Only sad Marlies remains unchanged, still moping around her house and cooking terrible food. But when the prophesied death finally comes, the circumstances fall outside anyone’s expectations. The loss forever changes Luisa and shapes her for years to come, as she encounters life’s great questions alongside her devoted friends, young and old.

A story about the absurdity of life and death, a bittersweet portrait of small towns and the wider world that beckons beyond, this charmer of a novel is also a thoughtful meditation on the way loss and love shape not just a person but a community. Mariana Leky’s What You Can See from Here is a moving tale of grief, first love, reluctant love, late love, and finding one’s place in the world, even if that place is right where you started.



What You Can See from HereWhat You Can See from Here by Mariana Leky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What you can see from here by Mariana Leky is a 2021 Farrar, Straus and Giroux publication.

A quaint, touching story-

Luise, due to the rather unusual situation with her parents, is mostly raised by her grandmother, Selma. Selma has the rather strange strait of dreaming about Okapi, an animal that closely resembles a Zebra. When Selma has one of these dreams, it unfortunately signals pending death -within a 24 hour time span.

When Luise was ten years old, Selma has one of her dreams, which puts the entire community on edge. Just when everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the unimaginable happens.

In the days and years to come, as Luise grows older, she must grapple with the big questions of life- grief, love- both familial and romantic- as she observes, and listens to those surrounding her, finding contentment in her surroundings, while pondering adventures outside of her comfort zone.

This is certainly an offbeat little story. As I understand it, this book was very popular abroad and has been translated from its original German language. The story doesn’t flow in the way I am accustomed, leaping over large gaps in time. It is a little jarring, truth be told, but these wacky characters are so charming, I couldn’t help but fall under their spell.

The book has some strong Buddhist themes, and though I’m not invested in those teachings, the story doesn’t hinge on that. It is ultimately a story of life- and the attitude in which one approaches it. Pain and loss are unavoidable and is something that can’t be handled any one particular way- but must be accepted as a part of life. There are some genuinely funny segments in the book and the story was wonderfully tender and heartwarming, overall.

This is another offbeat book I’ve stumbled across this month that might not hit everyone the same way, but I thought it was a delightful story and truly enjoyed it.



After completing an apprenticeship in bookselling, Mariana Leky studied cultural journalism at the University of Hildesheim. In 2004 her first novel Erste Hilfe was published . In 2017, her novel What can be seen from here was published , which was on the Spiegel bestseller list for weeks and has been translated into over fourteen languages.

Friday, September 17, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke- Feature and Review


A powerful thriller about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice from a writer and producer of the Emmy winning Fox TV show Empire.When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes--and save himself in the process--before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. 

A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.




Bluebird, BluebirdBluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Engrossing and laden with atmospheric foreboding-

This novel is packed with emotions, thick racial tensions and family dramas. I could almost imagine blues rifts playing in the background as the events in Lark, Texas unfolded. I could envision the town, the people, and feel the intense feeling of dread creeping up on me as the story unfolded.

When Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, stops in the small East Texas town, he never makes it back home. His body was pulled out the nearby bayou, and his fancy car disappeared somewhere along the way. A very short time later, the body of Missy Dale, a local white woman is also found dead. The possibility does exist, considering how small this town is, that the two deaths are connected.

Enter, Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, currently on suspension, separated from his wife, in a full -on battle with a whiskey bottle. Darren is given permission to casually visit, sans his badge, Lark, Texas to get the lay of the land. There, he encounters a kindred spirit of sorts in Michael Wright’s widow, who is there to claim her husband’s body.

Before long, Darren has slapped his badge back on and finds himself in the midst of a full blown murder investigation.

The deaths seem to have a connection to Geneva Sweet, the owner of a local cafĂ©. It would appear, that Michael Wright stopped by her place, asking some questions, right before he was murdered. Geneva’s past comes sharply into focus as Darren investigates Michael and Missy’s murders, amid rumors that the Aryan Brotherhood may have few contacts within Lark, meaning Missy's angry husband.

Bluebird, bluebird, please do this for me
Ooh, bluebird, please do this for me
If you see my baby, tell her I want her to come back home to me

John Lee Hooker

I could not put this book down!! The mystery is compelling and very suspenseful, but it’s the lush writing, and deep characterizations that really made this novel stand out.

Darren cuts quite a figure as a Texas Ranger, with his Stetson hat and boots, but his deep -seated sense of loyalty and all his personal baggage causes him to entertain all manner of self-recriminations, regrets, and self-doubt.
But, the history of Lark, the beautiful descriptions of the area, and the musical homage goes a long way toward creating that dense atmosphere where racial hostilities simmer, threatening to boil over. The past will catch up with the present as old buried secrets surface and long overdue justice will finally be served.

I really need Attica Locke to write a follow-up to this one, since Darren still has some serious issues to address. I’d love to see this turn into a series, or at the very least a trilogy.

Either way, this author has left quite an impression on me. I’m ready to dive into her other novels, ASAP!!





Attica Locke is the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Black Water Rising, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize. As a screenwriter, Locke has produced scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and HBO. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute's Feature Filmmakers Lab and has served on the board of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson- Feature and Review


The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of 
The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.



Caste: The Origins of Our DiscontentsCaste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is a 2020 Random House publication.

“Caste makes distinctions where God has made none”

It has taken me a good while to get through this book. There were times when I took long breaks from it- taking some time to reflect on what I had read.

Reading through some top reviews of the book and seeing that it has garnered over twelve thousand reviews, I can’t see how I could add anything more profound to what others have already said.

Instead, I’ll just say that Wilkerson has written another very important book- one that should be read by all.

Here are a few of my highlighted quotes:

Caste is structure. Caste is ranking. Caste is the boundaries that reinforce the fixed assignments based upon what people look like. Caste is a living, breathing entity. It is like a corporation that seeks to sustain itself at all costs. To achieve a truly egalitarian world requires looking deeper than what we think we see. We cannot win against a hologram. Caste is granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindnesses to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing the hierarchy.

In the American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance. In America, race is the primary tool and the visible decoy, the front man, for caste.

Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.

Overall, Wilkerson writes an in-depth study on the American Caste system, compares it with that of other countries, and gives readers plenty to think about and learn from- but it’s her own experiences that allow one to see these truths in action, to experience their affects from a personal perspective.

Once more Wilkerson has written an unflinching body of work, one that teaches and admonishes- but also enlightening- allowing us to imagine a world without Caste.

A powerful book- highly recommended.



Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, tells the story of the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize and was shortlisted for both the Pen-Galbraith Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

WARMTH was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times' 10 Best Books of the Year, Amazon's 5 Best Books of the Year and Best of the Year lists in The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Economist, among others. In 2019, TIME Magazine named Warmth to its list of the10 best books of the decade.

Her second book, CASTE: The Origins of Our Discontents, explores the unrecognized hierarchy in America, its history and its consequences. Caste became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, was the 2020 summer/fall selection for Oprah’s Book Club and was longlisted for the National Book Award. It was named to more best of the year lists than any other work of nonfiction and was named the No. 1 book of 2020 across all genres by the industry arbiter, Publishers Marketplace.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history."

She has appeared on national programs such as "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," CBS's "60 Minutes," NBC's "Nightly News," "The PBS News Hour," MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” NPR's "On Being with Krista Tippett," the BBC and others. She has taught at Princeton, Emory and Boston universities and has lectured at more than 200 other colleges and universities across the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

Follow @isabelwilkerson on Instagram and Twitter. Follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/IsabelWilkersonWriter/

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright - Feature and Review



You’ll never believe the terrible things being said about the perfect president of the PTA.

Attempted murder? Inexplicable accident? Either way, a PTA mom struggled for her life in an elementary school cafeteria, poisoned by wolfsbane. Now all eyes are on the accused, the victim, and a woman hired to look deeper.

Ambitious defense attorney and single mother Allison Barton is anxious to escape the shadow of the low-down dog of a marquee partner carrying their renowned Virginia law firm. A win for her high-profile new client will give Allison the career she deserves. And PTA president Kira Grant certainly appears innocent—except for the toxic bloom in her backyard and perhaps a bit of a malicious streak. But no one said the innocent had to be likable—or entirely honest. Besides, with an image as carefully cultivated as her garden, Kira would be insane to risk everything on something as outrageous as the attempted murder of one of her closest friends.

What about those in Kira’s orbit, a sunny suburb of moms behaving badly? What do they really know about Kira? What does Kira know about them? For Allison, the answers are getting darker every day.




The Darkest Flower (Allison Barton, #1)The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright is a 2021 Thomas & Mercer publication.

When Kira Grant, a PTA president, is accused of trying to poison one of the other mothers, she hires Allison Barton to defend her.

Kira has always lived a life of privilege and has no earthly idea what it is like to struggle. Be that as it may, she’s convinced her husband is having an affair, is in denial about her daughter’s dyslexia, and truly believes she is right about everything.

Then Kira is accused of murder- and faces some true adversity in her life for a change- but she’s so sure of herself and so convinced she knows better than Allison, she tries to micro- manage, manipulate and control the entire investigation. She gives Allison fits – but Allison is far more formidable than she’s been credited with.

The problem is, the deeper Allison digs the more suspects she turns up- and the possible motives are beyond twisted!! But the fact remains:
Someone tried to commit murder-right there in front of a bunch of school children, any of whom could have been an accidental casualty in the plot, and Allison will stop at nothing to discover the truth…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love legal thrillers, but I seldom find one anymore that combines much courtroom action with the investigation angles. This book not only balanced the two, but gave the genre a big quirky breath of fresh air.

This book was pure entertainment. It’s easy to read, fast-paced, though some of the characterizations are nearly cartoonish at times- except for Allison- who plays a more stereotypical role-but is our true protagonist- despite Kira’s flamboyant personality nearly drowning her out much of the time.

While the book has a few mixed reviews, I thought it was unique, perhaps a bit satirical- or darkly humorous, though I wasn’t quite sure that was what the author intended.

If you don’t take it too seriously, you might be able to enjoy it just for the pure fun of it. There’s a nice little twist at the end, too. Others have claimed to have seen it coming a mile off- but as jaded as I am- I didn’t figure it all the way out. Then, once the truth was revealed, I realized the story was maybe a bit darker than I’d give it credit for.

This is yet another book I’ve read this past month that was a little out the box- and it is another book that might not be suited for everyone- but I enjoyed it well enough.



Kristin Wright is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and has simultaneously been a small-town general practice lawyer handling criminal defense and the vice president of the elementary school PTA. She lives in Virginia with her husband, sons, and two beagles. For more information about the author visit www.kristinbwright.com.

Friday, September 10, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim- Feature and Review


At the news of her mother's death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn't spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco's Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She's even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother's restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant's fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around--she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.



Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and FortuneNatalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A Whimsical journey of self-discovery, finding one’s niche, and making your dreams come true!

Natalie returns to her Chinatown neighborhood after her mother dies. She hadn’t spoken to her mother in years and her sudden death causes a plethora of old feelings to resurface. Despite the problems she had with her mother, Natalie is filled with regret. She also sees how far the neighborhood has deteriorated since she’s been gone. When a realtor approaches Natalie, trying to convince her to sell her mother’s place, which includes the long -shuttered restaurant her grandmother owned and operated, Natalie balks. She soon discovers that contrary to what she’s been led to believe the restaurant is in working order. Her dream of being a chef could very well come true after all- however it will not be an easy task. With the help and support of her grandmother’s recipes and friends and neighbors, Natalie looks for just the right recipe for success- one that will give back to the community and carry on her grandmother’s legacy.

What a delightful story! This feel-good story adds in just a touch of magic, to go along with family and friends, a sprinkle of light romance, and tons of great food and recipes. I loved the characters, the family secrets, and the character development.

This is a fun story, really cute, with a few moral lessons tossed in, such as never giving up on one’s dreams no matter what adversity must be met and overcome. However, for me the most prominent theme is giving back to the community, paying it forward, and helping others, with the right intentions in your heart, and that’s a something we should do more of!






Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighbourhood.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother's) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as "painting with words."

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle- Feature and Review


From the bestselling author of 
The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing comes a riveting new novel of suspense about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she'll go to escape the person she once loved

Beth Murphy is on the run...

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing...

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.



Dear WifeDear Wife by Kimberly Belle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle is a 2019 Park Row publication.

Sabine Hardison is missing. With her husband looking increasingly guilty, the detective assigned to the case presses down hard, despite pressure from his boss to tread carefully.

Meanwhile, a woman named Beth, is on the run from her abusive husband, having changed her looks and her name. Beth is determined to stay one step ahead of her husband… against all odds.

My experience with Belle appears to be inconsistent. When this book came out a couple of years ago, I was cautiously optimistic. While I didn’t get around to reading it as quickly as I had intended, I’m glad I waited. Based on my recent experiences with popular books, putting a little distance between me and the hype might be for the best. This book, as it turns out, might be proof that this strategy works- at least for me.

The story was a big surprise- cleverly plotted- if you just stick with it. It’s also one of those situations where the less said, the better. I am rarely caught off guard- but I was fooled, but good with this book- and that’s one of the main reasons I liked it so much. That said, the momentum did drag a little at times, and fought the urge to skip ahead. But for the most part, the suspense is constant, keeping me guessing and on edge, wondering how it would all work out in the end. In hindsight, I felt a little chagrined, having missed hints hidden in plain sight- but this is the only situation where being duped is forgivable- and even appreciated!

Overall, this book has a well-executed, original approach. It was well thought out- minus a few plausibility flaws, and is a thriller that might actually stick out in my memory longer than most.



Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including her forthcoming domestic suspense, Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KimberlyBelleBooks), Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), Instagram (@KimberlySBelle) or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Lovely Digits by Jeanine Englert- Feature and Review


When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third?

Lovely Digits is the town oddity…

But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time.

Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable…

But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life?



Lovely DigitsLovely Digits by Jeanine Englert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely Digits by Jeanine Englert is a 2019 Soul Mate Publishing publication.

Two girls are murdered in Clun, both of whom were friends of Lucy Wycliffe. Lucy is a non-conformist, in that she has never married after the brutal murder of her parents- and she attends to the dead- a job that has earned her a reputation as an eccentric.

All she has left is her cottage which, if she doesn’t come up with a payment soon, will be repossessed. In desperate need of more funds, she accepts a job offer from the new town constable, John Brodie.

As the two pair up to investigate the deaths of Lucy’s friends, they find themselves in grave peril- but their hearts could be in even more jeopardy as they begin falling in love, because John is harboring a deep, dark secret that will most assuredly turn Lucy against him…

This is a book I took a chance on from the KU library- and my gamble paid off with dividends. This is a terrific combination of mystery, suspense, and romance. Lucy and John have a great chemistry between them, both as work partners and as a romantic couple. The mystery is compelling and full of Victorian era forensics, utilizing unconventional methods of detection.

I thought the author did a great job on this book- she measures the mystery with the romance perfectly, adds great details, and creates atmosphere, while drawing out the character’s emotions.

Overall, this was a terrific find- and I hope to hear from this author again!

4 stars




Jeanine Englert is a double VIVIAN ® FINALIST, Golden Heart ® Finalist, and Silver Falchion and Daphne du Maurier Award winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since.

She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels. When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.

Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, is a double VIVIAN ® FINALIST and won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award Winner for Best Mystery and Maggie Award Winner for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.

Her latest novel, The Highlander's Secret Son, was released by Harlequin Historical/Mills & Boon on May 25, 2021.