Review + Giveaway: Staying for Good

ABOUT THE BOOK

29917857Title: Staying for Good
Author: Catherine Bybee
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: January 2017
Length: 322 pages
Series?: Most Likely To #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Zoe Brown may have been voted Most Likely to Never Leave River Bend, but the paper-thin walls and suffocating air of her family’s double-wide trailer were not what she wanted for her life. Other than BFFs Melanie and Jo, the only thing that kept Zoe sane during high school was her boyfriend, Luke.

She didn’t just leave, she escaped—turning her back on the shame of her black-sheep siblings and imprisoned dad. Now a celebrity chef in Dallas, she can afford all the things she never could have growing up. But when she returns to rustic, ruggedly beautiful River Bend, Zoe has to face all that she abandoned—including Luke.

While Luke was a refuge for Zoe in the past, he knows they inhabit totally different worlds now. Anchored by his parents and his job as a mechanic in his father’s shop, Luke never felt the urge to leave River Bend—until Zoe’s return.

But when the two rekindle their old flame, Zoe is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: remain in River Bend and confront her past before it destroys her, or say good-bye to everyone she’s ever loved…again, this time for good.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Despite the talk they all heard growing up, Zoe Brown did not stay in River Bend and relive the trailer tragedy that was her life growing up. She learned to cook in Sam’s diner and took refuge at Ms. Gina’s, and her culinary career took off after participating in a network TV culinary competition show.

Her mother works at the local diner and her father was an abusive drunk. Ziggy eventually wound up in maximum security following a mini mart hold-up. Jo’s dad, the former sheriff, documented as much as possible the doings of Ziggy Brown, and when he returns to town following his release, she breaks out the mountains of files about the Brown family.

The year previous, Zoe returned to River Bend for her 10 year high school reunion, and being back in her small town brought all the old memories of her high school love with Luke back. It didn’t help that they kept running in to one another, and the fact that the flame was still alive. She returned again when Mel’s daughter went missing and Luke realized he wasn’t over her.

With Wyatt and Mel’s upcoming nuptials, they make a decision that sends Luke colliding with Zoe. With monumental life decisions, they reignite what started in high school. With Zoe going back and forth from River Bend to Dallas, she is reevlauating her life – but has a lot of reasons to stay away from River Bend.

The Players

Zoe Brown – a trailer park girl who left her small town and became a famous chef

Luke – Zoe’s high school flame; he stayed in River Bend to work at his dad’s shop

Jo – Zoe’s good friend; she is the local sheriff

Mel – another good friend; she is newly engaged/married to Wyatt and works at Ms. Gina’s

Wyatt – Mel’s significant other

Ms. Gina – the unofficial matron of Zoe, Jo, and Mel; she owns a B&B and is famous for her “red pitcher lemonade”

 

Zoe’s Family

Zane – Zoe’s younger brother; he was a very troubled teen that seems to be headed in the right direction

Zanya – Zoe’s younger sister; she has a baby, Blaze and lives at home trying to get by

Sheryl – the Brown mother; she works at the local diner and looks well beyond her age; deflects and lies

Ziggy – the Brown father; he has been incarcerated for the last 17 years

The Quote

 Miss Gina was still mentoring the youth of River Bend.

“Just keep them out of the lemonade.”

“Are you kidding? That’s what keeps the track team in this town full.”

The Highs and Lows

  • The Familiarity. This is the second book in the series, and I fell in love with the characters back then and reading from a new character’s perspective as their stories and lives continue brings back all the good feels. Knowing the history of the characters and how they are connected and the tight-knit, good friends that they are is sometimes hard to see in our world today. So many people are busy doing their own things, have their own families that keep them busy, and the familiartiy of the characters and the down-homey feel of River Bend was a good return.
  • Zoe. Zoe is a character with a truly troubled past, and it is all revealed in the book. This was not something I really knew from the first one – things were hinted at, but the reality and gravity of the situation was not there. She reveals all in this installment. As a child of abuse, I can empathize with her. She strove to get out of River Bend and not be the same as her parents. Not only did she accomplish that, she became very successful so that she could help assist her mother. With reality crashing in, it is hard for Zoe to accept that everyone else in her family downplays and sugarcoats just how bad it was, and she is left an outsider and feeling like she’s walked through the Twilight Zone. As if everyone else lived in the same reality and she lived in a disillusioned, alternate version. This creates a lot of strife among the members of her family, and tension.
  • Jo. She was that kid in high school that was always in trouble. She overcame that thanks to the Sherriff’s choice of discipline for River Bend hoodlums: running for the track team. It was double punishment that the Sheriff was also her dad. She lives every day in his shadow and takes a lot of cues from his work and the records he kept. She pulls out files upon files when the man her dad worked hard to put away returns to River Bend. None other than Zoe’s father, who hasn’t changed one bit – he’s just learned to be sneakier. Jo is unfailing in that she is on this like a bloodhound and will not give up. She will not see her best friend destroyed and hurt any more than she was before. More spunk and personality of Jo come out in this installment, and she’s an interesting woman. And she’s continuing her father’s legacy.
  • The banter. Because this is a group of friends who have largely grown up with one another the majority of their lives, the interactions are wonderful. No one is left out, even little Hope. The warmth and the concern, the love and the joshing all come out in the dialogue between characters, no matter which ones are in a particular scene. There are funny moments, there are quiet and reflective moments, and their are serious moments. I enjoyed them all.
  • The Plot. The plot centered around Zoe’s possible return to River Bend and her rekindling romance with Luke, but that was one linear plot that bubbles on top of the plot zeroing in on Zoe’s family issues. Ziggy Brown and his influence and reach – his negativity and the bad aura he carries around everywhere he goes – fuels the plot. Everything about Zoe’s life now revolves around how this impacts her family and herself. I will say that Ziggy’s moments he has are crude and very telling. Reading his snippets and scenes made me nervous of what was to come.

The Take-Away

Such great characters and a complex plot! I didn’t think I would encounter as much as I did in this book. Things that were just lurking beneath the surface of the synopsis.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

BUY! Read it. You won’t regret it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Copyright Julianne Gentry PhotographyNew York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Top Ten Tuesday: Graphic Novels

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists. For the list of past topics and future schedule, click here.


Graphic Novels

I will say this – I have not read near as many graphic novels as I should. But I do own all of these on my list today, and I have read almost all of them.

Honorable Mention for Great Graphics (but not a graphic novel):

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Do you have any graphic novels you’ve enjoyed? 

Tuesday Teaser & Intro: Chasing Fireflies

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Someone commented a few weeks ago that this cover looked interesting, so I decided for it to be my first pick in finishing up the Power of the Matchmaker series from last year.


30136490Synopsis ~ Chasing Fireflies by Taylor Dean

My sisters think I’m crazy.

But, I’ve never forgotten the mysterious woman from my childhood who told me Paul is the name of my one true love.
She told me to search far and wide for him.
I haven’t stopped looking ever since.

When I stumble across an article about a successful American entrepreneur named Paul who lives and works in China, I’m intrigued. When the opportunity to teach English in China presents itself on the same day, I know it’s not a coincidence.

It’s destiny.

My sisters say I’m chasing a dream.

Just like the fireflies we tried to catch on the warm summer evenings of our youth, the dream seems beyond my grasp. Will my quest for the elusive Paul always be just short of fulfillment?

My sisters tell me it’s a fool’s errand.

Until I remind them of the day we saw the Red Bird.
The memory silences them.
The Red Bird Incident remains inarguable—and proves my search for Paul is not a silly fantasy.

I will find Paul . . . I will.

 

Prologue

My three older sisters – Saige, Sadie, and Samantha – are all starting at me as if I just committed some type of cardinal sin or something.

Chapter 1

March, Five Months Earlier

“Please don’t leave me, Mom. Please.”


Teaser

 

Speak of the devil. Mr. Pow Pow saunters over to our table, looking like he belongs on a beach in California instead of a restaurant in China.

Would you keep reading? 

 

tuesdayTeaser Tuesday is hosted by The PurpleBooker. Post two sentences from somewhere in a book you’re reading. No spoilers, please! List the author and book title too. Link up HERE.

First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intros is hosted by Bibliophile By The Sea. To participate, share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book you’re reading or thinking about reading soon. Link up HERE.

 

Sunday Post ~ Sleepless in Seattle

0abf9b9e-b7ac-4d59-b451-7eb7c64ea1b9_zps47hi5hueThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things received, and share news about what is coming up on the blog for the week ahead. To get in on the Sunday funday, see the rules here: Sunday Post Meme.


This week went by quickly. I had my follow-up appointment for my sleep study. Despite what my results showed, and despite the doctor signing for a recommendation of surgery (either for deviated septum or upper airways), in person she was denying I needed those services and that there was anything medical related to my poor sleep. She continued to make comments while reviewing my results with me that during certain periods it was not clear if I was actually asleep. That’s why I wanted a REAL sleep study done, which is what I questioned in November and I restated as my concern to her. She kept trying to recommend I get one done at the same time lamenting the costs I would incur. No shit, Sherlock. But you know, this is *after* I asked for one and was told no, I didn’t have a big insurance company and already am on the hook a grand for this rinky dink one that didn’t reveal anything.

The result? I will not be getting a CPAP. Instead, I must have an diagnosed mood disorder and she ordered psychiatry services. I walked out without scheduling any follow ups.

All this, after telling me I needed to “read something boring before bed, like The Bible.”  I will wait until I get new insurance in the fall and start the process over – this time with my man in attendance to cut the crap.

Other than that, it was a mild week. I have one class that is starting to act up habitually. They are good kids, but the makeup of them is just such that they feed off of one another. I had a training afternoon on Wednesday and it was actually a little productive. My yearbook kids and I are working on portraits until we get sick of looking at people and their names. Heaven forbid these 11, 12, and 13 year olds make an unforgivable error! 🙂

1

 A Venture of the Heart

2

3

  • Monday
  • Review + Giveaway ~ Staying for Good
  • Tuesday
    • Top Ten Tuesday ~ Graphic Novels
    • Teaser Tuesday & Intro ~ Chasing Fireflies
  • Wednesday
    • WWW Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Famous Last Words #21
  •  Friday
    • Feature Follow Friday ~ Groundhog Day
    • Book Blogger Hop #6

4

I finished my audiobook, X. I was surprised when someone sent out a newsletter at work recommending X for students as a diverse read. While it is about Malcolm X in his young life up until his arrest at age 20, it contains content about hustling people, gambling and loan sharking, dealing and doing pot and cocaine. Whoever just saw “Malcolm X” and said “Yep, that’s diverse!” without looking at the content.

I started listening to a new audiobook, Crows & Cards. So far it’s just “eh” and. Not much that is particularly phenomenal about it yet. I’m hoping the plot picks up soon. I’m finishing up Staying for Good for my review on Monday. My students and I read chapter 7 of The Phantom Tollbooth on Friday.

6

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I started this feature as part of my Sunday Posts in the fall. After being asked by a coworker – in all seriousness – if I had a life, I decided to join disc jockey Bobby Bones of Kase 101 in doing one human thing each week.

How does it work?

In order to not lose what little sanity I have left and in order to not become enslaved to the Texas Education Agency via my school district, I will…

  • leave school within an hour of dismissal once a week
  • go do one human thing with another human
  • talk about my human thing on the blog each week

I didn’t have any particular human connections this week, either. I did leave work around 5pm two days this week, and left right after school on Friday. I was out twice this week, which always makes things hectic. The relief of UIL being off my plate is nice.

Cera, the new pup, is still pooping all around the house in Baby’s favorite places. Given the vast amount of time she’s allowed outside and a short window of time in which she goes in the house, we’re starting to think it isn’t a potty training matter but a territorial matter. It’s going to get old very soon. Anyone have any helpful ideas?

Feature Follow Friday ~ January 27, 2017

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Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The goal of Feature & Follow is to meet new bloggers, make friends, and gain readers.

Movie Adaption I’m Most Excited For

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I did go see Hidden Figures and I adore the movie. I did not know until the end of December that it was a book first. I just saw all the previews and knew I wanted to go see it.

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This is my FAVORITE Agatha Christie book. I haven’t read many (something I hope to change), but I think this one will stay my favorite. Johnny Depp stars in it, so I know it will be a hit.

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I also really want to see The Zookeeper’s Wife.

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I’ve talked about this book as a childhood favorite. I don’t care that I’m nearly 30 years old, I will see this new rendition

 

Other 2017 Movies I Am Excited For: 

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Which films do you want to see this year? 

Book Blogger Hop #5

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The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. Each week poses a book-related question. The hop starts on Friday and ends on Thursday. The purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers.


How many books have you started, but just couldn’t finish? (submitted by Elizabeth @ Silver’s Reviews)

I rarely start a book and don’t finish it, but I have a few I have resolutely DNFed over the years, and others I just quit altogether. I started a DNF shelf on Goodreads. I realized only my most recent DNFs were marked, so I went back and marked the few others I put aside since I started blogging.

dnf

Famous Last Words #20

Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words is a new monthly feature here in Land of 1000 Wonders. I wanted to find a new way to share some fabulous quotations from reads old and new. The inspiration for this feature came from the character Pudge in John Green’s Looking for Alaska.


 

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The small, old western town of Timberton, Montana, has not been the same since resident chef and artist Mist brought her unique, new age flavor to the area. When guests arrive at the Timberton Hotel for the holidays, they bring worries, fears and broken hearts, unaware that Mist has a way of working magic in people’s lives. Will old-fashioned time spent together, exquisite food, conversation and a snowball or two offer guests a chance to trade sadness for hope? One thing is certain: no matter how cold winter’s grip is on each guest, no one leaves town without a warmer heart in Mistletoe at Moonglow.

Blitz + Giveaway: A Venture of the Heart

A Venture of the Heart
Amelia Judd
(Silver Bay, #1)
Publication date: January 24th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

LOVE IS A RISKY VENTURE IN AMELIA JUDD’S AWARD-WINNING NEW ROMANCE

“Hello, Pax. It’s good to see you again.”And with those frigid words, karma kicked his ass and blew his dreams into a million tiny fragments.

Paxton Bennett walked away from a privileged upbringing to devote his life to La Vida de Ensueño, the socially responsible luxury resort he manages in Costa Rica. No way will Pax let a hotel chain swallow up La Vida and turn it into another lifeless clone. All he needs is a loan so he can match a buy-out offer. Unfortunately, every damn bank keeps saying no. He has one last hope–an on-site visit from a loan officer that he’s sure he can impress…

Banker Sage Somerset doesn’t want to see Pax Bennett across a busy coffee shop, let alone spend a week at a tropical resort with him. After their cringe-worthy last encounter, just hearing his name makes her blush or curse. Plus, there are snakes in Costa Rica. A lot of snakes! Determined to remain professional on her unwelcome assignment, Sage hopes she can survive a week in Pax’s world…

But a quirky staff, meddlesome family, and the night-time visit of a tiny green gecko soon threaten to turn business into pleasure. Will Pax and Sage fight their troublesome chemistry? Or will they take a chance on the biggest venture of all–each other?

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Award-winning author Amelia Judd writes fun and flirty contemporary romance. She loves to entertain her readers with memorable characters and fast-paced plots that blend humor, heart, and heat.

After receiving a degree in international affairs, Amelia lived and studied in Belgium for over three years. During her time in Europe, she traveled extensively, earned a master’s degree, and fell in love with writing contemporary romance.

Amelia now lives in the Midwest with her sports-loving husband, two active kids, and a lovable dog that insists on staying by her side day and night. When she isn’t writing, she’s spending time with family, hanging out with friends, chauffeuring her kiddos around town, or planning her family’s next getaway.

Website / Facebook

 

GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

$25 Amazon gift card and + eBook copy of A Venture of the Heart

eBook copy of A Venture of the Heart

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WWW Wednesdays (January 25th)

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This is a weekly meme hosted hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. To join in answer the following three questions and hop over to Sam’s and leave your link.


What are you currently reading? 

29917857I didn’t get a good start on my reading of this last week. Getting permission slips for about 15 kids still missing them for Saturday consumed my energy all last week.

378Since I’m reading it at school with my “homeroom” class, I have forgotten all about reading another book. I didn’t even mark it on my Goodreads until Sunday. We started reading The Phantom Tollbooth in December. So far we’re only at chapter 7. They have two novel unit packets that we work with chapter-by-chapter to improve the skills they are weak in. They thought I had read this book before, but I never have. Most of my students last year read it when they were in fifth grade, but the ones I have this year didn’t.

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

22292486I also started a new audiobook! And I’m almost done with it! If I listen tonight, I will have it finished.

Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.


 What did you just finish reading?

Nada…yet. I’m hoping to finish soon!


What do you think you’ll read next?

I am going to start with Chasing Fireflies next.


 How about you? What are you reading this week?

Leave a comment with your answers! Share the link to your WWW Wednesday post OR leave your answers in the comments if you don’t have a blog. Happy Reading! 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: January 2017 Buzz Books

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists. For the list of past topics and future schedule, click here.


FREEBIE – January 2017 Buzz Books

This week is a FREEBIE week to choose any topic we want. Since I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head to write about, I relied on Goodreads for inspiration.

The Girl BeforeThe Girl Before – Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life. The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth – In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public: postable, shareable, indelible.

Behind Her Eyes – Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise. And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Everything You Want Me to Be –  Reconstruction of a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Her Every FearHer Every Fear – Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Difficult Women – The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk. As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

Huck Out West – At the end of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, on the eve of the Civil War, Huck and Tom Sawyer decide to escape “sivilization” and “light out for the Territory.” In Robert Coover’s Huck Out West, also “wrote by Huck,” the boys do just that, riding for the famous but short-lived Pony Express, then working as scouts for both sides in the war.

They are suddenly separated when Tom decides he’d rather own civilization than leave it, returning east with his new wife, Becky Thatcher, to learn the law from her father. Huck, abandoned and “dreadful lonely,” hires himself out to “whosoever.” He rides shotgun on coaches, wrangles horses on a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, joins a gang of bandits, guides wagon trains, gets dragged into U.S. Army massacres, and suffers a series of romantic and barroom misadventures.

He is eventually drawn into a Lakota tribe by a young brave, Eeteh, an inventive teller of Coyote tales who “was having about the same kind of trouble with his tribe as I was having with mine.” There is an army colonel who wants to hang Huck and destroy Eeteh’s tribe, so they’re both on the run, finding themselves ultimately in the Black Hills just ahead of the 1876 Gold Rush.

Happy Hour Stories – Combining hard-edged prose and savage Southern charm, Mary Miller showcases transcendent contemporary talent at its best. With its collection of lusty, lazy, hard-drinking characters forever in their own way, Always Happy Hour confirms Miller as an heir apparent to Mary Gaitskill.

Claustrophobic and lonesome, acerbic and magnetic, the women in Always Happy Hour seek understanding in the most unlikely places—a dilapidated foster home where love is a liability, a trailer park laden with a history of bad decisions, and the empty corners of a dream home bought after a bitter divorce. Miller evokes the particular gritty comfort found in bad habits as hope turns to dust, and proves yet again her essential role in American fiction.

Did any catch your eye? What books are you looking forward to this year?