Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweetwater by: Christina Baker Kline

Title: Sweetwater Author: Christina Baker Kline Publisher: Aaron Asher Books Publication date: 1993

I chose this book because it was (1) southern fiction and (2) was the story of a woman starting over, so to speak. I love novels like that. Cassie Simon leaves behind an unfaithful lover and a dead end job at his art studio when she inherits a home from her grandfather in Sweetwater, Tennessee. She packs everything into an old station wagon and heads south to a family she doesn't remember. Having moved north with her yankee jewish father after her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident (the driver was her grandfather) when she was three, Christina knows nothing of Tennessee, the house she has inherited, or the family she has there. What follows is a story of getting to know her family and uncovering dark secrets about a mysterious drowning that took place on the farm shortly before her mother was killed. Each chapter is preceded by the thoughts of her grandmother, known as Clyde, as she thinks about her unhappy marriage. 
I really didn't enjoy this novel very much. It was sad, dark and dismal. It portrayed southerners as narrow-minded religious nuts, or unintelligent air-heads. It also has incest between cousins, which, although a joke with some northerners, is not accurate at all. Baker justifies the incest in the characters' eyes by saying one of them was adopted. It is still gross and not. It really does nothing to help an already bland story. (Maybe that's how y'all do things up north, but down here, it is just gross.) None of the characters were likable. All were angry, sad, and/ or one-dimensional. There were just too many cliches and stereotypes to make it believable, in my opinion. It was a great plot, but it just fell flat.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Vanishing by: Wendy Webb

Title: The Vanishing Author: Wendy Webb Publisher: Hyperion Pages: 286 Copyright date: 2014

From Amazon:
Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

Oh, wow! This book was awesome! It kept me guessing from page one! I loved it! Were Adrian, Drew, and Amaris friends or enemies? Was Drew a real man or a centuries-old ghost? I love Wendy Webb's novels and I do believe this is my favorite. This is one of those books to take along on a vacation, or to dive into on a long snow day. You will not want to put it down. You need time to savor each and every page. One thing I love about Wendy Webb's writing is that she doesn't waste time on boring detail. Each page has a twist or turn that leaves you thinking the opposite of what you thought on the page before. She is an awesome writer. This book contains just the right mix of reality and the supernatural in an amazing setting. The book left me thinking, "huh?" but I won't ruin it for anyone. It is waaaay to good for that. THIS is the book to take along when you have some time to sink into a really awesome novel. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

'Mater Biscuit by: Julie Cannon

Title: 'Mater Biscuit Author: Julie Cannon Publisher: Simon & Schuster Pages: 269 Copyright Date: 2004

From Amazon:
From the author of Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes comes a heartwarming story of three generations of Southern women working to mend the rifts of the past and set paths for the future.

It is summer in Euharlee, Georgia, and Imogene Lavender's garden is bursting with snap beans, okra, and tomatoes. The household -- made up of Imo; her daughter Jeanette and her new baby; and Lou, Imo's niece -- is about to grow as well. Imo's estranged mother, Mama Jewell, has begun to show signs of senility, and Imo has decided that it is her duty to take her mother in. Mama Jewell brings with her some secrets from the past, including the story of Lou's mother, a revelation that sends Lou in search of her ne'er-do-well father. For Imo, who is feeling the squeeze of being in the middle of the generations, Mama Jewell's temperamental nature stirs up long-buried memories of a difficult childhood. And much to everyone's surprise, wild Jeanette is so determined to find a husband that she joins the church choir to be closer to the handsome and enigmatic young reverend. 

'Mater Biscuit is a wonderful evocation of small-town life in the South, a world where hard work and prayers unite the community. Life isn't always easy for Imo and her girls, but they have only to look as far as Imo's beloved garden to be reminded that all things change with the seasons.

I enjoyed this southern novel every bit as much as I loved Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes.  'Mater Biscuit is a slow-moving novel or small-town Georgia as it (believe it or not) really is. Imo has to take in her mother after her dementia gets her kicked out of her apartment in a home for the elderly. This is hard for Imo, not only because she is already raising her own child, Jeannette (a teenage mother) and her baby and Loutishie (the child of her deceased sister) but also because Her mother was such an abusive mother. Imo is flooded with unpleasant memories of her terrible childhood at the hands of this woman and finds it hard to give her the care she needs. As she struggles to care for her mother, she grows more distant from Jeanette and Loutishie and neglects her friendship with her best friend Martha. The only thing that gives Imo solace is her precious garden. This is a heart-warming story of forgiveness that teaches the true meaning of family.

Read this novel is....
*you love southern fiction
*you love small-town novels
*you love women's fiction
*you love stories about family

Library Books Reading Challenge Update

I haven't done a Library Books Reading Challenge Update since January!! Here I am posting links to all the library books I have read from February, March, April and May 2014. There are only two, because I was busy with work and did my reading off my kindle. (Shame on me.) I have, however, made my first summer visit to the library (see my June posts) and my June wrap-up will be much better.

Who Asked You by Terri McMillan

May Wrap-Up Southern Literature Challenge

I read two books in May that qualified for the Southern Literature Challenge. They were :

Stardust by: Carla Stewart

This completes my goal of 4 books (which was the most you could choose in the challenge). Southern Literature is my favorite genre, so I will continue to read southern books. I will greatly miss this challenge now that I am done. I wish there were more Southern Lit challenges.....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Flower Children

Title: Flower Children Author: Maxine Swann Publisher: Riverhead Books Pages: 211 Copyright: 2007

I was intrigued by the cover of this book. I grew up during the same era, and the picture of the children playing (in 70's attire) took me back to my childhood. This is a fictionalized account of Swann's childhood growing up with two Harvard-educated hippies as parents. She and her siblings had no discipline, no rules. Their parents grew pot underneath the kitchen sink. A swing hung from the ceiling. 
The story follows the four children from early childhood through the middle school years as they begin to come of age. Their parents divorce, subsequent lovers, and visits to their wealthy (and very different) grandparents' homes all add to the children's view of the world and their view of their parents as well.
I enjoyed this book. However, the switching back and forth between first and third person points of view was distracting. I'd love to know what became of the children and their parents in later years. (You know it's a good story when you are left wondering what happened later.)

Read this book if:
*you love stories that take place in the 1970's
*you love stories about the hippies/ counter-culture of the 1970's

May Wrap-Up TBR Challenge

Well, I only had one book that qualified for the TBR Challenge in May. It was Stardust by Carla Stewart. (Published in 2012.)

Now that school is out, I hope to do much better on working toward my goal. So far, I've read 2 more books toward the TBR and it's only June 4....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

Title: The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue Author: Barbara Samuel Publisher: Ballantine Books Pages: 324 Copyright date: 2004

This is one of those novels that draws you in from the first page and you just can't put it down. At the novel's opening, Berta is losing her husband of 62 years to a long illness. As her friends gather round, the novel focuses in turn, on the lives of each of her neighbors. 
Trudy is recently separated from her husband of 20+ years. His infidelity took her by surprise. As she struggles to make her way as a single woman in a world she never imagined facing as anything but a couple, she takes stock of her life. She looks at her decision to leave college and marry, trading travel and academia for the life of a mom. 
Jade is recently divorced from a con-man who is now doing time in prison. She returns to her childhood home to help Berta, her grandmother, recover from her grandfather's death. However, she is still struggling with her own divorce and heartbreak.
Shanelle grew up dirt poor in a trailer park. She is married to a good man and has a good life. However, her husband resents her dream of becoming a writer.
The story is told, in turn, through the eyes of each woman. Each struggles to make her own way and still hold up her friends in their struggles. 
I love how the author tells the story realistically. There are no fairy tale endings here. There is no  black and white. Each character is human and behaves as we, ourselves, would in similar circumstances.
I was especially drawn to Trudy. Her struggle though her separation and having to deal with "the other woman" in a small town was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.
I really enjoyed this book. 

Read this book if...
*you love stories about friendship
*you love stories about relationships