Women’s Fiction

“New York Times Best Fiction & Nonfiction of 2020”

The editors of The Times Book Review chose the best fiction and nonfiction titles of 2020, from among the titles they had reviewed. The titles are a mix of bestsellers and wannabes, from debut and/or international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors fell in love with the story or the writing.


Listed in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles to read the reviews and learn more about the books.



Homeland Elegies”  by Ayad Akhtar 

The Vanishing Half”  by Brit Bennett

Deacon King Kong”  by James McBride

A Children’s Bible”  by Lydia Millet



Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell




Hidden Valley Road” by Robert Kolker

War” by Margaret MacMillan

A Promised Land”  by Barack Obama

Shakespeare in a Divided America”  by James Shapiro

Uncanny Valley” by Anna Wiener



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“Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt



We all have certain expectations of our spouses. In the best scenarios, we picture loving each other robustly, tenderly and forever. In those pictures we raise marvelous children, and journey through life’s adventures with our best friends. ‘When we are not so busy’ or ‘when the children are grown’ we’ll have time to sort out all the nagging relationship issues. Unless the sand in the hourglass runs out before we get that chance.


In “Pictures of You,” two women’s lives intersect in a tragic auto accident. April dies when Isabelle swerves into her on an unfamiliar road in the fog. Isabelle, a photographer, is haunted by what she has done, even though she is cleared of any wrongdoing. She can’t forgive herself, so she doesn’t really blame anyone else in the community for ostracizing her; even welcomes being left alone. The fact of her husband’s infidelity has taken a back seat to her guilt.


The little boy, Sam, who survived the accident, has lost his mother and a grieving husband, Charlie, doesn’t understand why his wife, April, would have been on that road with their son at that time of day. Secrets are revealed about April that astound her husband. He no longer knows the woman with whom he shared his life. Charlie is helpless to comfort his son, ineffective in dealing with so many ‘after death’ issues. How many of us would be any better at it?


What follows is the tragic tale of three people aching for love; raw emotions and devastating truths revealed as they find a way to heal. No plot spoiler here, but photography plays an important role in the storyline.


Sam is so well written, with always age appropriate vocabulary, that the reader completely understands when he feels responsible for his mother’s death. Sam mistakes Isabelle for an angel and with his nine-year-old logic, mixes reality with his desperate wish to see his mother again. Leavitt creates a world in which the reader wants to hold this little boy, take away his heartache.


In an effective subplot, Isabelle suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which Leavitt depicts with insightful clarity. Isabelle shakes uncontrollably, sweats and feels nauseous when she sets foot in a car after the accident and for months afterward, must walk or ride a bike to go anywhere. Having been in a terrible car accident myself many years ago, I sympathized with the realistically intense stress the woman was going through, cringed at the nightmares she experienced. Leavitt herself, has an acute fear of being in cars, so brings considerable, painful  authenticity to the reading experience.


We tend to dismiss the importance of the small choices we make in life – not kissing a loved one goodbye or taking the time to listen when we’re running behind schedule – until it’s too late to get a do-over. We look back after a disaster and think: if only I had been a better dad, a better son, a better wife. If only I had stayed, or been there, or did what she/he asked. Everything would have been different. If only.


Beautifully written, exquisitely shared.


Caroline Leavitt’s latest novel, “With or Without You,” was published in August, 2020.

For more information about Ms. Leavitt and her books, visit www.carolineleavitt.com



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Top Eleven Reviews – 2017


Book Cover - What She Knew

Tons of great books, soooo many talented authors, and oodles of dedicated booklovers, all combined to make 2017 a great year of reading entertainment. Whether discovering a new author, or returning to a tried and true favorite, the NBR community interest was over 30% greater than the previous most popular year.


Although not included in the 'Top Eleven Reviews – 2017' book list, the 2017 author profiles (Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, Barbara Ross, Lynn C. Willis) were extremely popular and we’ll have more during 2018. Click on their names – links to books included.


Why Top Eleven? There is a debut magazine in the list, very well received by the NBR audience.  🙂


Listed in alphabetical order by author (except for the magazine and the ‘Killer Thrillers’), click on the links to read the reviews for the first time, or to enjoy them again.


“Black Cat Mystery Magazine” debut issue short mystery fiction   https://bit.ly/2yrYX5F


“Killer Thrillers for the Beach”  (seven thriller authors, ten titles)     https://bit.ly/2hNTJJX


“Cat About Town” by Cate Conte    https://bit.ly/2ilMj0K


“Grilled for Murder” by Maddie Day   https://bit.ly/2oKW36H


“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni    https://bit.ly/2hCYpT0


“I like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” by Ann Garvin   https://bit.ly/2uhL8V5


“A Good Day to Buy” by Sherry Harris   https://bit.ly/2gNFTYb


“Dry Bones” by Craig Johnson    https://bit.ly/2kVtKgu


“What She Knew” by Gilly Macmillan    https://bit.ly/2jcgbvS


“Custom Baked Murder” by Liz Mugavero    https://bit.ly/2lqSf8C


“Relic” by Fiona Quinn   https://bit.ly/2q7m1yH


Many thanks everyone! May 2018 bring you lots of love and laughter, along with some thumpin’ great new reads.  🙂


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“I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” by Ann Garvin



Book Cover - I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around

Every once in a while, we read a novel that deals with a life event we have lived through ourselves. “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” has been on my TBR (To Be Read) stack for a few months, but I was reluctant to start it, not because I am unfamiliar with the author, but in fact, just the opposite. I was certain her honesty, wisdom, superb writing, and gut-wrenching truths would bring up old sadness. Was I ready for a visit to the not-so-long-ago past? Guess what? I wish I’d had it to read while Mom was still alive.


Ann Garvin’s “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” enters the in-your-face world of an aging parent who develops Alzheimer’s, while the daughter/caregiver simultaneously tries to live her own life. As many of you primary caregivers know, the parent’s situation usually takes precedence over anything and everyone else.


Ms. Garvin delivers her story with kindness, love, and a blinding reality check for Tig Monahan, the daughter who really doesn’t want her Mom to move into a nursing home. Tig feels guilty about leaving her in a strange place, especially since Mom seems constantly agitated/unsure, so unlike the accomplished woman she had been in younger days. If only Tig could figure out how, she is sure that her Mom could come home again and the world could go back to the way it was. Sigh…  If only.


Tig’s boyfriend, a seemingly nice guy, wants her to move to Hawaii with him while he works at his dream job. Tig is a therapist, but seems stuck, unable to figure out her own life. She does quit her job in preparation for joining the boyfriend as soon as she clears up a few things. Meaning: as soon as she gets mom moved into the nursing home. And settled. Hmmm.


Tig’s sister, who has rarely helped with Mom, has a boatload of issues that spill in a huge way into Tig’s life, making it much more complex, almost destroying her in the process. Tig shifts careers before she’s ready. Does it help? Will her boyfriend ever ‘get it’? Is he what Tig really wants in her life? What will happen to Mom? Who is the Doctor/stranger at the nursing home? Can Tig cope with her Mom not recognizing her, despite knowing everyone else? The surprises, laughs, and tears keep the pages turning.


Garvin has imbued the characters with just enough edge and sass, given them realistic voices in a difficult situation, keeping Tig’s story focused on finding a better way for her and her Mom. We root for Tig to discover her place in the world again, as messy and unkempt as the journey might be. We pray for her Mom to find peace in a world she no longer knows.

“ ‘Oh, if I could tell you, I would let you know…’ ” words from the book that will stay with me forever. Unexpressed heartache, unspoken love.


In addition to “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around,” Ann Garvin has written two other books. Read my review of her marvelous “The Dog Year” here.


Please visit www.anngarvin.net for more information about her work, as well as that of the Tall Poppy Writers.   🙂




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Greatest Love Stories of All Time




It’s the time of year when bouquets of flowers fill the stores, the gift of a box of chocolates takes on new meaning, and love songs (and movies) fill the airwaves. Swoonworthy stuff, ya’ll.


Instead of creating a post about current titles that inspire hearts to flutter, I put out an open call for men and women to name their favorite Greatest Love Stories of All Time. Thanks to Mari Barnes*, Sarah Bewley, Leah Canzoneri, Kait Carson, Peggy Clayton, Joy Ross Davis, Missy Davis, Laura Di Silverio, Saword Broyles Ellis, Terri Gault, Courtney Carter Girton, Sherry Harris, Cynthia Kuhn, Joyce Laferrera, Marj Lilley, Alice Loweecy, Gary Miller, Sylvia Nickels, Debbie York Parker, Nanci Rathbun, Jeanie Smith, Ellis Vidler, and Lynn Chandler Willis for their wonderful suggestions.  *drawing winner  🙂


Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, and where available, links to the Greatest Love Stories are included.  Click on the titles and read more about them.               


At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon

“Cinderella Story” by Wendy Logia

Come Rain or Come Shine” by Jan Karon

Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak

Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry

Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

Shadow of the Moon” by MM Kaye

Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson

Soulless” by Gail Carriger

The Far Pavilions” by MM Kaye

The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper 

The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy

The Second Coming” by Walker Percy

The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough


Are you thinking romantic, weak-at-the-knees thoughts?

Our work is done.  😉    


Photo credit:  Patti Phillips



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Authors of the Carolinas



How many of you have read about a region of the USA in a novel and wanted to travel there, in part to experience the food, in part to relax and enjoy the fabulous scenery that can only be seen in that one area of the planet? The Carolinas (both North and South) are home to fabulous shrimp & grits dishes, as well as mouth-watering other goodies. And you can’t visit either State without having a refreshing glass of world famous Sweet Tea.


The authors listed below either live in North or South Carolina, grew up here, or set their books in the region. We are treated to the cuisine of the Appalachia, the Low Country boils, the scenery of the mountains, and/or the wildlife/marshes of the coast. There is a mix of historical, paranormal, happily-ever-after, outrageous comedy, dark mysteries, and cozies – something for everyone who loves thumpin’ good fiction.


Click on the website links to find out more.  J



Suzanne Adair  “A Hostage to Heritage”  www.suzanneadair.net


JD Allen “Grasshopper” in “Murder Under the Oaks”  www.jdallenbooks.com


Maria Alonso-Sierra  “The Coin”  www.mariaelenawrites.com


Mike Axsom  “Making Memories Down South”  www.mikeaxsom.com


Jodie Bailey  “Breach of Trust”  www.jodiebailey.com


Kaye Wilkinson Barley  “Whimsey”  www.kayewilkinsonbarley.com


Cindy Blackburn   “Five Spot”   www.cueballmysteries.com


Heather Blanton  “A Promise in Defiance”  www.ladiesindefiance.com


Susan Boyer  “Low Country Book Club”  www.susanmboyerbooks.com


Felicia Bridges  “Czechmate”  www.adventuresthatinspireaction.com


Antoinette Brown  “One-Cat Woman” in “Carolina Crimes”


Ross Cavins  “Barry vs The Apocalypse”  www.rosscavins.com


Diane Chamberlain  “Pretending to Dance”  www.dianechamberlain.com 


C. Hope Clark  “Echoes of Edisto”   www.chopeclark.com


J.A. Coffey  "Double Dog Dare"  www.jacoffey.com


Cynthia Cooke  “Going All the Way”  www.cynthiacooke.com


E.B. Davis  “Ice Cream Allure” in “Carolina Crimes”  www.ebdavismysteries.com


Saword Broyles Eller    www.amazon.com/author/saywordbeller


Nora Gaskin (Esthimer)  “Time of Death” www.lystrabooks.com


Normandie Fischer  “From Fire into Fire”  www.normandiefischer.com


Beatrice Fishback  “Bethel Manor”  www.beasattitudes.net


Dorothea Benton Frank  “All Summer Long”  www.dotfrank.com


Marni K Graff  “Death Unscripted” www.auntiemwrites.com


Jordon Greene  "They'll Call It Treason"  www.jordongreene.com


Leigh Greenwood  “Forever and Always”  www.leigh-greenwood.com


Lynette Hampton  “Fiona’s Journey”  www.agnesalexander.com


Rick Helms  “Older than Goodbye”  www.richardhelms.net


Judy Hogan  “Haw”  www.judyhogan.home.mindspring.com


Tom Honea  “A Confluence of Rivers”  www.amazon.com/dp/B009LU1X8I


Ellen Hunter  "Much Ado About Murder"  www.ellenhunter.com


Polly Iyer  “Indiscretion”  www.pollyiyer.com


Regina Jeffers  "Angel Comes to the Devil's Keep"  www.rjeffers.com


Sabrina Jeffries  “Stormswept”  www.sabrinajeffries.com


Linda Johnson  “Trail of Destruction”  www.lindajohnson.us


Kieran Kramer  “Trouble When You Walked In”  www.kierankramer.com


Vicki Lane  “Under the Skin”  www.vickilanemysteries.com


Linda Lovely  “Lies”  www.lindalovely.com


Cynthia Luhrs  “First Knight”  www.cluhrs.com


Margaret Maron  “Long Upon the Land”  www.margaretmaron.com


Jamie Mason   “Monday’s Lie” www.jamie-mason.com


Karen McCullough  “Wired for Murder”  www.kmccullough.com


Heather McGovern  "A Moment of Bliss"  www.heathermcgovernnovels.com


Ruth Moose  “Wedding Bell Blues”  www.ruthmoose.com


Katy Munger  “Desolate Angel”  www.katymunger.com


Nancy Naigle  “Every Yesterday”  www.nancynaigle.com


Heather Newton  “Under the Mercy Trees”  www.heathernewton.net


Kathryn O’Sullivan  “Neighing with Fire”  www.kathrynosullivan.com


Gail Oust  “Cinnamon Toasted”   www.gailoust.com


Kate Parker  “Deadly Scandal”  www.kateparkerbooks.com


Britni Patterson  “A Thousand Deadly Kisses”  www.britnipatterson.com


Leigh Perry  “The Skeleton Haunts a House”  www.leighperryauthor.com


Ashantay Peters  “Reading Between the Lives”  www.ashantay.com


Patti Phillips  “Kerrian’s Notebook, Vol. 1”  www.pattiphillipsbooks.com


Karen Pullen  “Cold Feet”  www.karenpullen.com


Kathy Reichs  “Trace Evidence”  www.kathyreichs.com


Jennifer Riley  “Jerk Alert”  available at Amazon


Sarah Shaber  “Louise’s Chance”  www.amazon.com/Sarah-R.-Shaber/e/B001HMPB9U


Nancy Simpson  “B.O.Q.”  www.authornpsimpson.com


Regina Smeltzer  “Retribution” www.reginasmeltzer.net


Jennifer Hudson Taylor  "For Love or Liberty"  www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net


Ellis Vidler  “Prime Target”  www.ellisvidler.net


Kathryn R. Wall  “Jordan Point”  www.kathrynwall.com


Tamara Ward  “Concealed Suspicions”  www.authortamaraward.com


Lynn Chandler Willis  “Wink of an Eye”  www.lynnchandlerwillis.com


Bonnie Wisler  “Count a Hundred Stars”   available at Amazon


Caleb Wygal  "Blackbeard's Lost Treasure"  www.calebwygal.com




See any new-to-you names on the list of Authors of the Carolinas? 

Happy reading!  🙂





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“Thought I Knew You” by Kate Moretti


Book Cover - Thought I Knew You

Kate Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You,” relates the poignant story of a wife whose husband leaves on a business trip and never comes home. Imagine waiting for a loved one to walk through the door at the appointed time…and he doesn’t. Not an hour late or even a day late just because of flight delays. The key never turns in the lock.


Was he murdered? Is he lost? Has he walked out on Claire Barnes? What happened to him? This page-turner will keep you guessing all the way through as the life that Claire thinks she and Greg experienced together is revealed bit by bit.


Claire reports him missing right away, but everyone discounts her concern as unnecessary. She begins to make phone calls backtracking his movements, and the more she uncovers, the less she knows about the man she called her husband for so many years. While Claire knows something has been ‘off’ between the two of them, she is sure that his commitment to their daughters is sincere and he would not have left them behind.


Claire’s support system is strong: the helpful Police Detective who keeps searching, a life-long devoted friend, Drew, who picks up the pieces while the search is on, the mom that keeps the girls when Claire can’t handle any more.


But, as the months roll by and the search for Greg widens, Claire has time to reflect, alternately blaming herself for whatever happened and angry at the discoveries she makes. We see the layers of the marriage exposed as well as the truth of the relationship with Drew revealed, and the book intensifies in its hold on us. The ripple effect of the loss of one person changes everyone that comes in contact with the family left behind. Claire questions her own actions within the marriage a bit more, and we begin to recognize her flaws, even as she dismisses them.


Marriage vows are called into question and we, in turn, reflect upon what makes our own relationships tick. We feel the longing, the questioning, the justifications, the sadness of lives not fully realized. Do we compromise everything for something we think we want out of life? Does the safety in the picture of the white-picket-fence-and-two-children dictate our path? Must it take losing everything familiar in order to discover our own capabilities and the essence of who we are?


“Thought I Knew You,” stuns the reader with twists and turns and comes to an astonishing end with conclusions that may be shocking to some, if not heart-breaking.


This is a book perfect for book clubs, chock full of discussion points. I asked my adult son about some of the choices made by the men in the story and his surprising responses would spur on debates within those book clubs.


Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You” is exceptionally told, deeply felt. Haunting. Memorable.


While “Thought I Knew You” is a work of fiction, the tragic reality is that thousands of people go missing every year. Some of those missing people are homeless and nobody ever looks for them when they inexplicably disappear from the streets. All kinds of people go missing from intact homes, and though the families may search for years, no trace is ever found.


As sometimes happens, the true crime area of my other website (www.kerriansnotebook.com) overlaps with the case here. For more information about groups that handle a wide variety of missing persons cases, take a look at http://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/missing-person.html#persons


Please visit www.katemoretti.com for more information about Moretti and her moving, insightful work.




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