Review: Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Anna: Starting 2022 strong! I loved this book.

Irene and her best friend, Luce, live in a small town in North Carolina. They work as servers and have been sober for nearly a year. But that night, something happens with Luce’s boyfriend, Wilky, that sends them spiraling back into using. The narrative is structured by a dual timeline, so we get to go back see their entire journey with addiction from the start, including the big breaking point that made them first became sober.

Bewilderness is a dark story about substance abuse, addiction, and the cycles of addiction. On the surface this is an important, cautionary tale: addiction kills. But at its core it’s about the complex friendship between Irene and Luce, and how their relationship changes and is tested over the years. And the writing is beautiful. Bewilderness is perfectly paced, it’s heartbreaking, and I couldn’t put it down. If you liked Marlena by Julie Buntin, I think you should check this one out. 

I also learned so much about addiction, the path to sobriety, and just how hard it is to stay clean. I encourage you to check out Karen Tucker’s website and read some of her interviews to learn more.

Trigger warnings: Addiction & drug use 

Review: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

A paperback copy of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is being held up in front of a stretch of toes in the sand on the beach.


Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe follows two main characters: Anna Kate and Natalie. When Anna Kate’s grandmother passes away, she returns to her family’s hometown, a small Alabama town called Wicklow, to take over Granny Zee’s cafe. She’s only planning on staying for the summer, but she has some long-time family drama to unravel.

Meanwhile, Natalie returns to Wicklow with her young daughter after her husband dies in a tragic accident. While she’s working on gaining her independence, she has to live with her parents, and try to reconcile with her mother, who never got over Natalie’s brother’s death. 

I enjoyed this one! It was the perfect beach read. Webber’s writing flows well, and I found myself impressed by how well she handles such a large cast of characters. Wicklow is charming, and the people fun and quirky (think Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls). I especially enjoyed reading from Anna Kate’s POV as she bakes pies and learns about her family. The themes of grief, losing a family member, and reconnecting with family are resonant throughout the book.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is considered magical realism, but unlike some other magical realism books I’ve read, I would consider this one lightly magical realism; the cafe and pies are the only real elements. 

While I think Webber’s dialogue is overall written very well, there were definitely some melodramatic speeches that weren’t very realistic. I also wanted to get to know the two love interests better; I feel like their characters sputtered out too much by the end. And there was a weird tie in with a cat at the end that was strange and not entirely explained. Lastly, there was also a reference that Natalie was a part of the Daughters of the Confederacy (yikes!)

Other than that, I think if you’re looking for an easy, heartwarming book set in a charming Southern town with lots of descriptions of pie, then I’ll think you’ll enjoy this one.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐💫/5

Review: Betsy Blossom Brown by Kathleen M. Jacobs


Thanks so much to Kathleen M. Jacobs for sending me her book! Jacobs has a gift for writing details, and vividly describing colors and clothes that create a vintage atmosphere and a Southern setting.

However, there are two big issues that kept me from being fully absorbed in the story: the POV randomly switches between first person and third person, and the name “Betsy Blossom Brown” was thrown around a little too often. 

To address the first issue, it happens so often in Betsy Blossom Brown that it made me confused. Even in the first couple of pages, one paragraph says, “‘But I don’t understand,’ Betsy winced.” And five paragraphs later begins with, “I turned each side of my hair behind my ears…” At first, I thought this was a characterization of Besty, that maybe she sometimes referred to herself in third person. But then I remembered that this was a minor problem in Honeysuckle Holiday.

As for Betsy’s name, it is a great Southern name, and makes for a great book title. However, I think the amount of times the repetition of her full name was repeated throughout the story lessened the magic of her name. 

That being said, I thought Jacobs did a great job of talking about and depicting Betsy’s Aspberger’s. Not many works of fiction deal with Aspberger’s, so I found this to be refreshing and enlightening. The story was character-driven, and I found Betsy’s character to be quirky and interesting. 

The writing in Betsy Blossom Brown is full of beautiful imagery, including vivid colors and clothing, that set up a coming-of-age story in a beautiful and nostalgic Southern setting. Jacobs writes in a conversational style that works well for her characters. However, I preferred the storyline in Honeysuckle Holiday, which I also found to be more cohesive. 

VERDICT: 3 stars

Review: Honeysuckle Holiday by Kathleen M. Jacobs

Alexis: Read 3/11/19

*The author sent me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.*

Honeysuckle Holiday was such a poignant read. Don’t let the cover fool you: this short book tackles childhood innocence and racism.

The story follows Lucy in two different time periods: 1965 and 1970, when she was twelve and sixteen-years-old. Though Honeysuckle Holiday is categorized as YA, I would describe it more as a bildungsroman/coming-of-age story. When Lucy’s father leaves, not looking back, on Christmas Day, she and her older sister, Caroline, try not to dwell on it too much. But she knows something has changed when her mother refuses to talk about him and when they have to move into a different house.

In her acknowledgements, Jacobs quotes a woman named Peggy Fox: ‘“You captured the voice of a twelve-year-old girl very well.’” And she’s right. Jacobs’ writing flows beautifully, but I was very aware that I was reading in the perspective of a twelve-year-old.

Lucy notices everything around her. She relates things to her Barbie dolls, which she admits she’s starting to outgrow. She is jealous of some of Caroline’s things but also wants to be like Caroline when she grows up. She partly knows why her dad left but is partly left in the dark. She’s curious about the world around her and asks lots of questions. Jacobs’ detailed descriptions mimic Lucy’s curious mind. I also like how she includes a lot of parenthetical phrases, as Lucy has a lot of afterthoughts.

I love all of the references Jacobs includes in her book. Lucy’s mother wears Chanel No. 5. Lucy uses a Velveeta box to hold her collection of found objects. The characters reference It’s A Wonderful Life, The Beatles, and TV shows of the time. These references cemented the story into its setting and time period, bringing it to life.

Lucy mentions To Kill a Mockingbird multiple times, and even relates herself to Scout. I found this fitting, as the story reminded me a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird. Both are told from a young perspective, but are really told for a more mature audience. Both deal with racial tensions and divides, as well as the horror of the KKK. I loved Jacobs’ inclusion of descriptions of food. The book is set in the South, and I enjoyed reading about Lila’s apple pies, okra, and Lucy’s love of steak.

While I liked how Lucy describes the honeysuckle vines ( as well as the smell) outside of her window, I don’t think the title of the story sums it up very well. Though the story itself was impactful, the title was not. To me, the honeysuckle symbolizes Lucy’s childhood innocence, and the book is about coming-of-age and losing that behind. I’m also not sure why the first couple of chapters are in Caroline’s POV.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick read that’s packed with vivid details, that will draw you into the 60’s and 70’s, and whose message will stay with you, then I definitely recommend it.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books

We Met Sugar Run’s Author, Mesha Maren!

Yesterday, we visited the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond to hear author Mesha Maren talk about her new book, Sugar Run.

Sugar Run has already gotten a lot of attention in the book world, and we loved hearing her talk about her book. Maren discussed her research, writing processes, and inspirations. She discussed how West Virginia, where she grew up, was her inspiration for the book. She even told a story about building a log cabin with her dad when she was 17, a log cabin that is now her writing space.

We enjoyed listening to her talk about identity and how she and her main character, Jodi, navigate being LGBTQ in West Virginia.

We look forward to reading and reviewing Sugar Run!