Book TalkFeaturesInside Out


By May 5, 2021 May 13th, 2022 No Comments

History, mysteries, thrillers and a Fort Worth author’s memoir of “madness”

With Mary Rogers

I love old, familiar titles and can’t part with some of my favorites, but I’m always hungry for the “newest best books.”

I’ve perused early reviews for weeks trying to find my next read. Here are a few titles released this spring that I’m thinking about adding to my nightstand stack. If you have others you’d like to share, sing out.

Historical fiction

You’ll probably hear plenty about Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge. Inspired by the life of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, the first Black woman to be a physician in New York state, this fictional tale of a woman struggling to find her identity is said to be well-researched and full of insight into the Reconstruction era following the Civil War.

I’m also considering The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake. This meticulously researched bit of fiction set in 1845 London is about Nora, an orphan girl raised by a brilliant but eccentric surgeon.

It was a time when the only women working in medicine were nurses and midwives. However, Nora works so closely with her patron that she becomes the surgeon’s most trusted assistant. They keep the arrangement secret, and no one knows of her ever-increasing skills.

But one day, Nora must decide whether to stay hidden and allow others to take credit for her work or take her rightful place beside the men and save a patient. It is a risky gamble that tests her loyalty and threatens to destroy everything she has accomplished, while putting her patron in danger, too.

I like the premise of this book and the deep dive into medical practices of a bygone day, but I also like the story about the authors.

Audrey Blake is a pseudonym for two women: Jaima Fixsen from Canada and Regina Sirois from Kansas. They met as finalists in a writers contest and began collaborating. They talk often, but apparently words alone are not enough. They feel they must see each other’s reactions, and so they use FaceTime. This is their first book written together.

Mysteries and thrillers

I seldom read either genre, but I’ve found a new read in the latter category for your consideration. Early reviews of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer report that this master storyteller has delivered another tightly plotted thriller heavy with elaborate conspiracy that’s sure to be a page turner.

The story begins mysteriously enough with a security consultant receiving an envelope with a key to a storage unit. Naturally, she uses the key and discovers a rare and endangered hummingbird mounted by an expert taxidermist.

There is also a note left by a woman who is already dead. The security consultant follows clues in the note and finds a stuffed salamander, also endangered.

When the woman takes the hummingbird out of the storage unit, she has no idea that she has set in motion a series of events that put her and her family in danger. She has no way of realizing the scope of the threat, but like ripples on a pond, the danger spreads far, far beyond this woman and her family.

Of course, the clock is ticking, and she has only a short time to understand the situation and stop the eco-terrorists who may endanger the world.

Your neighbor’s nightstand

A denizen of the Monticello neighborhood, Melanie D. Gibson is a book lover who favors memoirs. When we talked, she’d just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle, the bestselling memoir released last spring that might best be described as a “coming out” story of self-discovery and acceptance.

Gibson says it’s about “finding authenticity and doing what you like” rather than what others expect. She calls the book “inspiring.”

Gibson’s own memoir dropped in April. Those who expect the author of such works to dance naked for the reader shouldn’t be disappointed. She reveals it all, including the ruined relationships and the substance abuse.

Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts is the story of how Melanie learned to battle depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder using the Korean martial art of taekwondo.

She had taken taekwondo as a little girl in Snyder, Texas. It had lifted her spirit and given her a sense of strength and purpose, but by the time she was in her early 30s she struggled to keep going. She turned to the pros for help but found that traditional medicine and methods were not helping her cope in the way she had hoped.

Remembering the taekwondo classes of her early years, Gibson was determined to begin again with the practice. Now she is a black belt, with an eye to the future.

This ancient art helped her restore the focus, discipline and peace she needed to claim the life she was meant to live. Besides, “it’s fun,” she says.


Mary Rogers is a Fort Worth-based freelance writer. Have a book or book club recommendation? Contact her at