Tag: South

The Best Books I Read in June (2019)

I read 20 books in June, bringing my total to the year for 102 books read.

I have to say, this was a case of quantity, not necessarily quality, as there were a few books that I really enjoyed, but most were just solid to mediocre reads.

That being said, two of my monthly goal books and one of the last books I read for review for the month were outstanding.

at the water's edge

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen. This was my cultural pick of the month. Which, admittedly, was fudging it a bit, since the heroine is American and the books starts in New York in 1942. But…socialite Maddie and her horrid husband, Ellis, and his best friend, Hank, end up in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster, so I rationalized it. Fantastic, engrossing book! I would love to go to Loch Ness, and Gruen’s prose is top-notch. Highly recommend this!

backseat saints

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson.  This  was from my TBR pile. I discovered Joshilyn Jackson when I read gods in Alabama for the first time several years ago (and re-read it last year and was just as entranced). This was when I discovered Southern fiction was a thing. I’ve read several of her books now–and cannot wait to review her upcoming novel, Never Have I Ever, at the end of the month. Backseat Saints takes a minor character from gods in Alabama and explores her very challenging life. Joshilyn Jackson is an auto buy for me, and that’s a really short list, so…

the stationary shop

The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali. I’m still emotionally reeling from reading this, so I’m not sure I can talk coherently about it. Most of this takes place in 1953 Tehran, when Roya and Bahman fall in love on the edge of a revolution. it’s…not a happy book, which I realzied immediately. Usually, I would have chosen not to finish what I knew would be a sad read, but this was so good that I continued reading.

 

 

Advertisements

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

southern side of paradise
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  The Southern Side of Paradise
Author:  Kristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Southern fiction
Rating:  2 out of 5

Ansley Murphy has everything she’s ever wanted…finally. The man she’s always loved is back in her life. Her three daughters are in town and happy. Her business is taking off. Ansley can’t help but feel like the other shoe is about to drop.

Her youngest daughter, Emerson, and actress and recently engaged, just landed a dream role and got engaged, but her health is worrying her, and she feels like she’s missing something when she should be focused on planning her wedding. When secrets that were never meant to be told come out, the sisters’ bond with their mother turns fragile, as all stand on the brink of life-changing decisions.

I’m just going to be up-front:  I could not stand these characters, and that made me dislike this book intensely. This is clearly my own issue. The writing is great, and the small southern town setting is very well done. But…seriously? Ansley spends half her time justifying the fact that she cheated on her husband for years…so they could have children. She knew it was wrong, but she makes excuses to herself anyway. Emerson is whiny and childish, prone to throwing a fit if she doesn’t get her way, and she’s so self-absorbed she can’t even see the person standing right next to her. She’s also pretty heartless, and her morals are highly questionable (Wonder where she learned that from?) Sister Caroline is a controlling witch, who also makes excuses for her bad behavior (Yes, her husband cheated on her very publicly, which was terrible, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat everyone around you badly). Sloane wasn’t enough of a presence for me to actually care about her, but she was the only one who was likable. I’d read this author again, but not these characters.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. The Southern Side of Paradise is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Glory Road, by Lauren K. Denton

glory road
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Glory Road
Author:  Lauren K. Denton
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Jessie McBride moved back home to Glory Road ten years ago when her marriage failed. She lives with her 14-year-old daughter, Evan, and her aging mother, Gus, and they run a garden shop together. Jessie has given up on love and is content with her life, though she worries about her daughter, who’s about to enter high school, and her mother, who’s starting to forget things.

Then two men arrive on Glory Road:  handsome Sumner Tate who asks her to do the flowers for his daughter’s wedding, and Ben Bradley, her best friend from high school who she never quite voiced her feelings for. Jessie loves the attention that Sumner gives her, but Ben is safety and security. Between her daughter, who’s interested in the new boy down the road, her mother’s health, and these two men, Jessie’s quiet life is in shambles.

This is the second Lauren K. Denton book I’ve read, and I have to say two things first off:  her cover artist is amazing, and I love her writing. I do love Southern fiction as a whole (once I realized it was a thing), but she does it so well, making the setting live and breathe. Her characters are strong and struggling, imperfect and impossible not to love, and her writing is beautiful. Go read this.

Lauren K. Denton was born and raised in Alabama. Glory Road is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen

the breathless
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.

Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.

The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories:  the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.

Tara Goedjen was raised in Alabama and now lives in California. The Breathless is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight

the innkeeper's sister
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.

Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.

I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here:  the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.

Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Love, Alabama, by Susan Sands

Love, Alabama
Image belongs to Tule Publishing.

Susan Sands is from Louisiana, but lives in Georgia now. Love, Alabama is the second book in the Alabama series.

Emma Laroux had it all in college:  a shot at the Miss America title, a bright future, and a charming boyfriend she loved. But all of that disappeared because of a night she can’t remember, a night full of scandal that cost her her boyfriend and caused her to walk away from her title. Now she’s settled in her small home town, happy with her life as a pageant coach.

Except it’s been years since she dated anyone, and she’s not sure why. Sure, it would be nice to have kids, but the men aren’t exactly beating down her door. Then Matthew Pope arrives in town. He’s not happy to be back in the South, and when he sees Emma, he remembers that fateful night ten years before, when she was in trouble and he came to her rescue. But Emma doesn’t remember Matthew, and soon the past starts to haunt the two of them, interfering with the attraction growing between them.

I love book series set in the same location, where characters I loved in previous books appear in the current one, and you find out what’s going on in their lives. This is a series like that, and although I haven’t read Again, Alabama, I love the sense of family that links the two books. And the picture of small-town Southern life is scarily accurate, complete with nosy neighbors and former beauty queens with attitudes.

(Galley provided by Tule Publishing via NetGalley.)