FREE Shipping!
April 2022 Reviews

April 2022 Reviews


Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place by Neema Avashia. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2022. 171 pages. Trade paperback.

In this title, the word “Indian” means South Asian, not Native American. The author grew up in the Charleston, West Virginia, suburbs, where her father, ironically, was the physician for Union Carbide for the sister plant to the plant in Bhopal, India, that blew up in 1984 causing the deaths of thousands of people. This is a book of autobiographical essays, not strictly a memoir, but it is fascinating and engaging from the beginning. Having this book available really helps us understand the depth of diversity in our region. It is the second book illuminating South Asian life in urban Appalachia that I’ve learned about.  Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change is by Anjali Enjeti, a South Asian who moved from Detroit to Chattanooga in 1984 at the age of ten.  “Another Appalachia is a breath of fresh air, a work that the public is in dire need of reading. Wide and expansive as the land the author calls home, this essay collection subverts the mainstream’s hyper focus on white male-dominated narratives from rural America and commands your attention from the first page to the last word.” - Morgan Jerkins. “Neema Avashia, in this book, has named the unnamed, spoken the unspoken so that it does not become—to paraphrase Adrienne Rich—the unspeakable, and she has done so in language that is both lyrical and direct, both entertaining and edifying, both challenging and generous. I love this book and believe it introduces an important voice in America’s ongoing racial reckoning.” - Rahul Mehta. “An essential text to add to the new canon of Appalachian writing—a compassionate and rigorous memoir of the author’s experience growing up as a queer Hindu child and teenager in a small community of West Virginian Indians. Another Appalachia is a bright and deeply empathetic portrait of a complicated place, a place that Neema Avashia allows to be multifaceted in the way it deserves.” – Anna Claire Weber.

Camping Virginia and West Virginia: A Comprehensive Guide to Public Tent and RV Campgrounds by Desiree Smith-Daughety. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield/Globe Pequot, a 2022 second edition of a 2013 release. 230 pages with lots of photos, maps, and charts. Trade paperback.

More than 100 campgrounds are included in this guidebook that contains exhaustive information on phone numbers, fees, facilities and even recommends the best sites at each campground and the best season to visit it. Organized by region, this book includes “Camping Etiquette” and “Wildlife.” The author owns a career services and coaching company and has published in periodicals on lifestyle, health and business topics.

Cherokee Women in Charge: Female Power and Leadership in American Indian Nations of Eastern North America by Karen Coody Cooper. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2022. 237 pages with an Index, References, and photos. 7” X 10” trade paperback.

This important book is more episodic than exhaustive as it captures both spirit and substance of the transition from traditional matrilineal power to power relations designed to appease and co-exist with the patriarchal structures of the conquering peoples of European descent. The first section of this book examines the power of women in traditional Cherokee society. The second section looks at other Eastern U.S. tribes in a quick survey of the centuries from the 6th to the 20th. The final section swings back to focus on the Cherokees as it abandons the Eastern U.S. to consider not just the Eastern Band, but women of Cherokee descent all over the country, including Oklahoma. McFarland has carved out an important niche in the publishing landscape in recent years. It publishes books that address academic concerns that either university presses will not consider because they are not scholarly enough or that authors do not want to submit to university presses because they don’t want to wait two or three years between submission and publication. The author, Karen Coody Cooper is retired from working for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and now lives in Florida. She claims a Cherokee grandmother but not a tribal number.

Coal, Cages, Crisis: The Rise of the Prison Economy in Central Appalachia by Judah Schept. New York: New York University Press, 2022. 328 pages with and Index, Bibliography, Notes, and photos. Trade paperback.

Twelve of the fifteen prisons located in Central Appalachia were built in the last three decades, and eight are in Eastern Kentucky. Although a small portion of the 350 prisons that have been built since 1980, during this era of mass incarceration, these prisons represent a huge economic impact in areas where coal is no longer king and jobs are scarce. The author of this book, Judah Schept, teaches at Eastern Kentucky’s School of Justice Studies – what we always used to call the “cop school.” This spring term he is teaching “Introduction to Criminal Justice,” “Punishment and Society,” and “Social Change and Community Engagement.”  His first book, also from NYU Press, is Progressive Punishment: Job Loss, Jail Growth, and the Neoliberal Politics of Carceral Expansion (2015). "Against the many reductionist, exploitative, and degrading accounts of Appalachia, this book reveals how important it is to understand the region’s drive toward prisons and jails as part of a larger history, geography, and narrative of continuous extraction and structural crisis, one that was never inevitable but socially reproduced through carceral investments. Coal, Cages, Crisis is essential reading in this moment of reckoning, proving our analyses of racial capital in the rural hinterlands is foundational to struggles in the movement against prisons everywhere." -- Michelle Brown. "Through the churn of extraction and profiteering, disposal and human sacrifice, the mountains of Appalachia have become a kind of national sacrifice zone, home to coal mines, garbage dumps, and cages. Judah Schept’s brilliant book nests rigorously local Appalachian history within the global system of racial capitalism that is devouring the planet. As jails and prisons proliferate across the coalfields, Schept tells us what was there before so we will remember to ask that crucial abolitionist question―what might be there instead?" -- Naomi Murakawa. "Judah Schept sketches a fascinating topography of class war and the carceral state in Appalachia. He boldly shifts focus from the criminal policies and physical prisons of the region to the infrastructures of extraction and disposal that have facilitated mass incarceration. This imaginative interdisciplinary study will be a critical resource for scholars and organizers as well as for pundits trying to make sense of Appalachia’s now mythologized ‘white working class.’" -- Christina Heatherton. "Coal, Cages, Crisis is a model of carceral geography that combines investigative journalism, unabashed activism, and multi-layered analysis. Jill Frank’s stark photography illuminates a bleak landscape, while Schept excavates its buried past." -- Tony Platt.

Kentucky Heirloom Seeds:” Growing, Eating, Saving by Bill Best with Dobree Adams. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, a 2022 paperback edition of a 2017 hardback release. 269 pages with an Index, Resources, black & white and full-color photos, a Foreword by A. Gwynn Henderson and an Afterword by Brook Elliott.

This charming book takes a true grass-roots approach despite being chock-full of vital information. Generous to a fault, it holds up and tells the stories of dozens of Kentucky seed-savers, rather than focusing on Billy Best, arguably the state’s quintessential practitioner!  The reader here can learn everything needed to become a seed-saver. Both authors have distinguished themselves in other arenas as well as gardening. Bill Best, a native of Haywood County, North Carolina, with a long career as a teacher at Berea College, holds a PhD in Appalachian Studies and has written ten books. Dobree Adams is known as a fiber artist and photographer. "In the expanding contemporary world of heirloom seed savers, Bill Best is already legend with over 700 varieties of discrete beans and hundreds of tomatoes stockpiled and catalogued at his farm outside of Berea, Kentucky. Best is distinguished not only for his collection of seeds, but for his keen interest in the stories that accompany them and his ability to weave those stories into the history of a people and a region, the Appalachian South. At a time of growing attention to and focus on American foodways as history, Best's book is a valuable resource that will be used across the discipline."―Ronni Lundy. "Bill Best's language and tone of voice are elegant notes of calm discourse in a shrill world. Beneath the tackiness of American popular culture there is a depth of traditional culture that is invisible to the mass media. The book is a kind of seed itself, fecund, filled with life and potential."―Gurney Norman. “This book delves into how our ancestors saved seeds and gives tips on how you can save yours. Filled with interesting personal stories―from master gardeners to just home gardeners who saved seeds―it is an inspiring read."―Kentucky Monthly.

Met Her on the Mountain: The Murder of Nancy Morgan by Mark I. Pinsky. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, a 2022 paperback and hardback edition – with a new “Postscript  2022” – of a 2013 hardback release by John F. Blair, publishers. 211 pages with an Index and Note on Sources and Methods. Trade paperback or hardback with a pictorial cover.

Shelton Laurel Creek is known today as a fabulous trout stream and fly-fishing destination. The community in its watershed is located in Madison County, North Carolina, and was settled by brothers David and Martin Shelton in the 1790s. The 1860 census found 137 local residents named Shelton, by far the majority of valley residents. It was a hardscrabble life, and only four of them were over the age of 40. The community voted 532 to 345 against seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy, establishing itself as a bastion of union sentiment. Then, the invading Confederate Army terrorized the community in an assault that culminated when they shot 13 apparently randomly-selected local prisoners in what has been subsequently known as the Shelton Laurel Massacre. In 1970, another violent incident put Shelton Laurel again on the map. There, Nancy Morgan, a twenty-four-year-old VISTA volunteer was raped and murdered. A botched and incompetent local investigation was followed, fourteen years later, by a trial and acquittal of another VISTA worker. This was widely perceived as another possible culture-war-motivated incompetent move by local law enforcement. More recently, North Carolina authorities have refused to submit DNA pertinent to this cold case to national data bases. Journalist Mark Pinsky has followed the case closely from the beginning, and his fascinating and exhaustive account is true-crime writing at its best. "A fascinating and compulsively readable chronicle of one man's forty-year obsession with an unsolved murder. Pinsky's meticulous research, relying heavily on interviews, translates into a beautifully nuanced study of culture clash, machine politics, and the sometimes-hobbled pursuit of justice in a small mountain community."―Vicki Lane. "This compulsively page-turning true crime narrative has it all: smart prose, a now obscure unsolved murder that was notorious at the time, and an investigative journalist trying to pick up the trail. Regarding the victim as a kindred spirit . . .  Pinsky followed the story from the start (he was a college student in the area at the time of the murder), and many readers will be convinced that his dogged investigation has at last uncovered the truth."―Publishers Weekly (starred review). "Mark I. Pinsky has delivered a powerful narrative of mystery, death, and tragically squandered idealism in this tale of murder and mayhem in North Carolina's western mountains. But this is more than a whodunit: it is an enthralling journey into the heart of an isolated rural community burdened with a dark legacy of violence and soul sapping corruption. Pinsky writes with great sensitivity to mountain mores, and filigrees his page-turning story with a veteran reporter's eye for both the intricacies of rural politics and the insidious vitality of human deceit."―Fergus M. Bordewich. The author, Mark Pinsky, has worked for the Associated Press, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Los Angeles Times.

The Princess of Albemarle: Amelie Rives, Author and Celebrity at the Fin de Siecle by Jane Turner Censer. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2022. 336 pages with an Index, Notes, Selected Bibliography, and illustrations. Hardback in dust jacket.

I’ve always been confused about Amelie Rives Troubetzkoy (1863-1945), so I’m delighted that a book now exists that straightens it all out. The emphasis in this book is on her life in Albemarle County, Virginia, at the Castle Hill estate not far from Charlottesville. Although she was born in Richmond, she lived at Castle Hill most of her childhood, although her family moved to Mobile, Alabama, during her teenage years. While still a teen, she moved back to Castle Hill while spending time in Newport, Rhode Island, Europe, and other haunts of the wealthy. She was considered a beautiful, though capricious and unconventional, Southern Belle. 1888 she published her first novel, The Quick or the Dead? which was considered scandalous because her protagonist, a young widow, expressed her erotic passions for her late husband’s cousin. Of her twenty-five subsequent books, none gained more attention and sales. Of those, the most clearly evocative of the Appalachian Mountains near her estate, was Tanis the Sang-Digger (1893). I remember being delighted when I bought a used copy of that book and then sold it to Eliot Wigginton who read portions of it to his high school students in class discussions of stereotypes of mountaineers and those of other backgrounds. The year the The Quick or the Dead was published,1888, Rives married John Armstrong Chanler. Most of their seven years as a couple, they lived apart, and their marriage was considered scandalous and unhappy and coincided with her becoming addicted to opioids. Four months after their divorce, she married a Russian artist and Prince, Pierre Troubetzkoy. They mostly lived together at Castle Hill until his death in 1936. She continued to live there until her own death nine years later. “An elegant and engaging multifaceted portrait of Amelie Rives as a white southern aristocrat, author, celebrity, artist, socialite, drug addict, divorcee and more. Censer offers a shrewd and persuasive assessment of Rives and her accomplishments that situated her notoriety in an era that is strikingly similar to yet different from our own.” W. Fitzhugh Brundadge. “Jane Censer’s engaging biography introduces modern readers to a fascinating Virginian – a best-selling author and international celebrity in her day who virtually disappeared from public memory following her death in 1945. Her remarkable story reveals a talented and ambitious woman navigating the cultural constraints of her day while making the most of opportunities to challenge and expand society’s views of women’s appropriate place.” Sandra Gioia Treadway. The author, Jane Turner Censer, is Professor Emerita of History at George Mason University. She wrote The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895.

What Earl Scruggs Heard: String Music Along the North Carolina-South Carolina Border by Bob Carlin. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2022. 212 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, Discography, and photos. Trade paperback.

Bob Carlin is considered one of the leading experts on the old-time and Bluegrass banjo and has written about a dozen books on the topic. This book on the influences experienced by Earl Scruggs, who died ten years ago, is fascinating. Among those that Carlin profiles are Charlie Parker, John W. Ross, Mack Woolbright, and Fisher Hendley. This book demonstrates conclusively that the three-finger up-picking banjo style did not originate with Scruggs.


Lioness by Mark Powell. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2022. 304 pages. Trade paperback.

This novel can be read, enjoyed, even found meaningful without thinking about the title or about the Appalachian mountain lion that figures in the beginning, the end, and the middle of this novel. But that panther also adds another element of intrigue to contemplate. Which character is most like a panther? Is it Chris Bright, the ecoterrorist apparently responsible for the bomb that exploded in the Tazewell County, Virginia, water-bottling plant? Is it his lover, Mara, the divorced mother whose young son died of a terrible illness? Or is the female mountain lion simply a symbol of stealth, of power, of the need for an environment free of excessive human intervention? This is the seventh novel by Mark Powell, a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina who directs the creative writing program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. No wonder Ron Rash called Mark Powell, “The best Appalachian novelist of his generation.” “Emotionally wrenching. . . . Haunting (and haunted) in the best possible way.”- Kirkus Reviews (starred review). “Powerful and layered, this is a tour de force . . . dark, moody, and mesmerizing.” - Foreword Reviews (starred review). “Lioness is a darkly compelling portrait of an artist who evolves into a homegrown ecoterrorist. Mark Powell’s brooding, twisty novel is packed with a distinctively American, highly explosive mixture of religion, art, sexual obsession, mental illness, and environmental menace.” - Tom Perrotta. “Mark Powell’s Lioness is an immersive rendering of the human quest for love and healing amidst a world on fire—a fire we have set and cannot tame.” – Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle. “In this haunting novel of passion and intrigue, Mark Powell takes on the environmental collapse coming at us and the people driven to action. Powell is a writer with mountains of talent, and here he creates complex and fascinating characters trying to figure a way out of grief and despair. Even love is sometimes violent.” - Janisse Ray. “A thriller with quickness and elegance, Lioness asks tough questions about our responsibilities to the natural world and to one another. In offering no easy answers, it achieves something beautiful and haunting. Mark Powell has written a gorgeous, enthralling, immensely readable novel that will hook you until the very last page.” - Kayla Rae Whitaker. “Mark Powell’s Lioness is a force of nature: moody, twisty, stormy, and supercharged with the fierce blue voltage of top-notch storytelling. It’s a riveting ecothriller that’s also a profound exploration of grief—grief for one another, and grief for the earth. What a powerful novel.” - Jonathan Miles.

The Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey. New York: Gallery Books, 2022. 416 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.

In 1914, Edith Vanderbilt became a widow when her husband, George Washington Vanderbilt, II, died, leaving Edith with a thirteen-year-old daughter, Cornelia, and America’s largest home, Asheville, North Carolina’s Vanderbilt Estate, to care for. This novel of generations of strong women is tied together by the wedding veil shared by Edith and Cornelia. The novel’s secondary plot is connected only by the fact that Babs passes another wedding veil that she believes looks like that of Edith and Cornelia down to her grand-daughter, Julia Baxter, who decides, at the last minute, to escape her wedding. "The author easily switches between the time periods to locate momentous events in the characters’ lives and connect each story line with the veil at the center. Harvey, ever a fine storyteller, manages to keep the pages turning."—Publishers Weekly. "Finding inspiration in the true story of Edith Vanderbilt and her mysteriously disappeared wedding veil, Harvey intertwines a veil's generations-spanning journey, the lives of the women who wore it, and the strength required to remove the veil and follow one's heart instead."—Booklist. “Woodson Harvey’s latest is a knockout—a perfect blend of historical fiction (two generations of Vanderbilts and their iconic North Carolina mansion) and modern love (a runaway bride and her grieving grandmother). Her masterful intertwining of the storylines makes for a read that’s both sweeping yet incredibly intimate, with perfect pacing and characters who surprised at every turn. I didn’t want it to end."—Fiona Davis. Kristy Woodson Harvey, a North Carolina native who now lives on the coast, is the author of nine novels, including New York Times best-sellers.

Where I Can’t Follow by Ashley Blooms. Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2022. 288 pages with “A Reading Group Guide,” and “A Conversation with the Author.” Trade paperback.

This novel was named a most-anticipated book of 2022 by Good Housekeeping and many other magazines. The author, Ashley Blooms, set out to write “a book that dealt with addiction primarily and then a ripple effect of issues surrounding addiction, such as grief, mental illness, choice and autonomy.”  The theme of choice reverberates because the protagonist, Maren Walker, like many people I’ve known in Appalachia and the Eastern Kentucky coalfields where this book is set, is always thinking about getting away from the region. When Maren was nine-years-old, her mother, Nell, departed fictional Blackdamp county and left Maren to be raised by her grandmother. Now, Maren also dreams of somehow escaping her life selling pills. "Where I Can't Follow is a powerful and unflinching look into emotion, place and its people, and what binds you even when not fully belonging. Ashley Blooms has written a haunting testament to the survival of self and family in a struggling, desperate Appalachian community." ― Kim Michele Richardson. "Haunting and hopeful, a hard story full of shocking warmth and unexpected beauty. The little doors of Blackdamp are the kind of make-believe that feels true, a magic so vivid it feels more like a memory than a work of fiction." ― Alix E. Harrow. "With wisdom beyond her years, Blooms illuminates human frailty and elevates the humble journey. Her mountain tale of hardship comes wrapped in delicious language. I highlighted favorite phrases so I could re-read them and be stunned all over again. Her original voice is captivating and unique and delivers an ethereal story about trust triumphing over self-doubt. Congratulations, Ashley Blooms, on propelling our imagination toward a new dimension." ― Leah Weiss. The author grew up on Cutshin Creek deep in the mountains of Leslie County, Kentucky. Her MFA is from the University of Mississippi. Her first novel, Every Bone a Prayer (2020) was praised by Dorothy Allison and many other authors and publications.


Grounding by Sarah Pross. Charlotte, North Carolina: Main Street Rag, 2021. 33 pages. Trade paperback.

Grounding is the perfect title for this book because Sarah Pross is certainly well-grounded. She was born, raised, and still resides in Seymour, Tennessee, and went to Maryville College in the next county over. Not surprisingly, “Always Pointed Home” is the title of one of the accessible and often delightful poems in this, her first collection. “For Sarah Pross, the mountains of Appalachia are more than home—they are history and future, bone and blood, the place where her family lives above the ground and rests beneath it. In Grounding, Pross’s straightforward voice praises the good while gently recalling the not-so-good, such as a grandmother’s five-day-old food. In poem after poem, Pross’s words serve up ‘comfort food for the sad // and lonely soul. Memory food.’” ~ Connie Jordan Green.“’I love words, the feel/of them in my mouth’ writes Sarah Pross in her debut chapbook, Grounding. Pross shares her rooted landscape in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in these poems, formed from ‘a bundle of the unwritten/wrapped in human skin’ about nature, ancestors, and faith, recollections from her ‘dead people box’ that are all very much alive. With her firm promise that she is ‘not the leaver,’ Pross establishes herself as a talented emerging poet.” ~ Sue Weaver Dunlap.

Heartbreak Tree by Pauletta Hansel. Lake Dallas, Texas: Mudville Publishing, 2022. 96 pages. Trade paperback.

These very self-aware poems center on Pauletta Hansel’s youth when she was living in Jackson, Kentucky, the county seat of Breathitt County, where her parents were on the faculty of Lees Junior College. This county has been known variously as “Bloody Breathitt,” for the mountain feuds there that took lives or “Turner’s Farm” for its County Judge, Marie Turner, who thwarted all efforts to bring it progress in favor of its status quo. The powerful and profound title poem is characteristically brief and to-the-point. It presents the magnolia tree as representing the heartbreak of aging because it can show bud, blossom, and decay all on the same branch. This poem is worthy as a title poem because that is the way that life progresses, and these poems provide inside into n examined life. “Pauletta Hansel's poems were born in the hardscrabble mountains of Kentucky. The splendor of their moments of beauty that spring up like ‘ironweed purpling/ the spent fields’ seems earned, deserved.” -Michael Simms. “Heartbreak Tree is a gorgeous book, carefully assembled from flowers, dirt, graveyards, family memories, and letters to the poet's younger self. It's a love story to a place and a people, an excavation, a time capsule, a fierce inquiry and a song. Read it once for the pleasure of the honest voice, read it again for the beauty of the land and lamentation at its destruction, and keep reading it because its heartbeat, however specifically regional, is the same that pulses through all of us, whispering "home, home, home." - Alison Luterman. The poet, Pauletta Hansel, is the author of eight previous poetry collections. She has lived in Cincinnati most of her adult life.

Light at the Seam by Joseph Bathanti. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2022. 78 pages. Trade paperback.

The seam in the title is the coal seam. Sunlight streams onto the coal seam only when the layers of soil and rock are scraped off of it by heavy machinery in the ominous process of Mountain Top Removal mining that makes retrieving the coal to sell it not only cheaper, but also more damaging to the environment and people nearby who are assaulted by the desecration of the land, the water and the air. Half of these poems were inspired directly by Carl Galie’s photographic exhibition, Lost on the Road to Oblivion: The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country. “Joseph Bathanti’s eco-poems simultaneously praise the intricate beauty of Creation and rage against the coal industry’s destruction of Appalachian mountains and Appalachian lives. His sacramental vision, his witness, along with his compression of sound and sense, are akin to the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Lamenting the felling of Binsey poplars, Hopkins cried out, ‘O if we but knew what we do. . . .’ But in this moment, we do know. Climate change tells us, and Bathanti’s poems show us, close up. In ‘Sundial, WV’ we learn that ‘children take sick from powdered coal’ and that ‘2.8 billion gallons of coal sludge’ are impounded in a slurry pond right above their elementary school. We see disastrous flooding in West Virginia when Pigeon Creek has ‘had too much to drown’ and in Kentucky when ‘a good house / built righteously . . . [is] swamped, then sundered, vitals bared . . . [its] yard washed off to Pike County.’ For Bathanti, as for Blake, ‘Everything that lives is Holy’―‘mossy black rock / pink angiosperm / lichen, leather-leaf / stonewart, ferns.’ Light at the Seam exposes the ruin spewed forth from the opposite outlook: Everything that lives is money. Greed and gluttony will get it while they can, Mother Earth, her inhabitants, and Mater Gloriosa be damned.” -- George Ella Lyon. The poet, Joseph Bathanti, is a former poet laureate of North Carolina, the author of seventeen books, and a professor at Appalachian State University.

Woman with Crows by April J. Asbury. Georgetown, Kentucky: Finishing Line Press, 2021. 23 pages. Trade paperback.

I get the first word of the title, “woman.”  All these poems include a woman, even those that start with a man always finish with a woman getting the last word. But I’m not smart enough to get the last word, “crows.” “Woman with Crows brings the reader into a life engaged with the deeper, more difficult beauties of the world.  Threaded through with the language of myth and fairy tale, and grounded in earthy roots and cycles of life and death, these poems have a wingspan that gathers both light and dark, silence and voice, this side and the other.  Life is whole in these poems, their truth profound.” – Diane Gilliam. “She trusted her wings and sailed a brisk salt wind…right out of that old story.” With this ending line of the opening poem, April Asbury sets the tone for this collection. The Woman with Crows stares down the world, exploring the complex social contract that women sign without knowing it, just by virtue of their gender. These poems often recount many traditional tasks and roles:  grocery-shopping, canning, caring for the sick, keeping up with family history and expectations, but with the open eyes of one who chooses that nurturing role knowing “The truth is you don’t need Eve’s fruit: …You can starve to death in Paradise.” This is a fine debut from a very promising voice. – Rita Quillen. “Woman with Crows explores the secrets of childhood, girlhood, and what it means to be a woman. These well-crafted poems delve into mythologies old and new and show us a myriad of ways to tell a story. And we listen again and again.” – Crystal Wilkinson.


Labor Days, Labor Nights: More Stories by Larry D. Thacker. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog Press, 2021. 205 pages.  Trade paperback.

This book of Larry Thacker stories follows his previous collection, Working It Off in Labor County.  Obviously, Thacker loves working people and loves telling stories of their lives.Larry Thacker's Labor Days, Labor Nights gives us inventive yarns that veer from the charming to the profound and pinball between madcap hijinks and haunting sadness. At every turn, they confound expectation in a way quite likely to delight.” --Robert Gipe. Labor Days, Labor Nights is a big-hearted carnival jammed with all the belly laughs and heart-twisting poignancy we've come to expect from Larry Thacker. It's all here, folks: roller-derby angels, pygmy goats, shrunken heads, lightning-rod preachers, catfish wranglers, grieving altar-builders.” - Marie Manilla. The author, Larry Thacker, grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and, after a stint ion the Army, graduated from Lincoln Memorial University across the state line in Tennessee. After a stint in the Army, he worked at LMU as an administrator for fifteen years. In the last few years, he has earned an MFA and moved to Johnson City, Tennessee, where he works in antiques and teaches part-time at Northeast State Community College.


Wrecked by Heather Henson. New York: Atheneum/Simon and Schuster, 2022. 272 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.

Wrecked isn’t a retelling of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s play was more of a jumping-off point for me.” – Heather Henson. Just as a tempest is always a threat at sea, a wreck is always a threat when a young woman loves to ride her motorcycle. This youth novel, that can certainly be read by adults as a trade novel, is told in the voices of three characters. Mira is the motorcycle rider and mechanic and the teen daughter of a father who makes meth. Her friend, Clay, is the son of a meth-maker, but his mother is in prison for it. And Fen is the son of a DEA agent, a newcomer to Eastern Kentucky who falls in love with Mira. How’s that for a set-up? “Heather Henson has written a breathtaking and harsh and beautiful novel about meth addiction, and about the incredible rush of first love. Wrecked is exquisitely plotted and fast moving, a novel about the tenderness an author feels for a land and its people, and the heartache that underlies a nation struggling.” - Cynthia Kadohata. “Full of grit, passion, and mystery, Henson’s latest book takes a searing look at first loves and second chances, family secrets, and the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, all while exploring the ways home may affect us, but does not have to define us. Wrecked is a raw gem of a book.” – David Arnold. The author, Heather Henson, grew up in Danville, Kentucky, left to attend college in New York and then worked as an editor at Harper and Row but has returned to live on her family’s farm and work as the managing director of the Pioneer Playhouse which her father founded in 1950. She has written many children’s books, all set in Kentucky.