In February, I read 16 books, bringing my total for the year to 33 books read. I also DNFed two books. Of those 16 books, three of them were really excellent.
The Record Keeper, by Charles Martin. Y’all. If you haven’t discovered Charles Martin’s books yet, please do yourself a favor and pick one up. This one is the last in a trilogy that started with The Water Keeper, and I inhaled these books. I do not even have words to describe how much I loved these books and these characters. I will automatically buy—in hardcover—anything this author writes. Even his nonfiction is phenomenal.
When the Moon Turns Blue, by Pamela Terry. I love Southern fiction, but I enjoyed this and The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, the author’s previous book, so, so much. The characters in this are just wonderful. I highly recommend.
My most surprising read of the month was Bibi: My Story, by Benjamin Netanyahu. I almost never read biographies (I’ve maybe read two in my entire life), don’t care for politics, and the military also isn’t my thing, yet this autobiography from a world leader who was in the military kept me riveted to the page. And I thought there was drama in the United States’ political system!
On the morning after Harry Cline’s funeral, a rare ice storm hits the town of Wesleyan, Georgia. The community wakes up to find its controversial statue of Confederate general Henry Benning destroyed—and not by the weather. Half the town had wanted to remove the statue; the other half wanted to celebrate it. Now that the matter has been taken out of their hands, the town’s long-simmering tensions are laid bare.
This conflict is especially personal to Harry’s widow, Marietta, who’s never been a fan of the statue. Her brother, Macon, the top defense attorney in the Southeast, is representing Old Man Griffin, the owner of the park where the statue stood. Despite Marietta’s pleas to let the matter rest, Macon is determined to find those responsible for the damage and protect the Griffin legacy—and he’s far from the only person Marietta stands to lose over a statue. Without Harry beside her, Marietta longs to salvage those connections, but the world is changing, and the divide can no longer be ignored.
I loved Terry’s The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, so I was eager to read this. And it did not disappoint! The characters are so….I don’t know, cool? They’re people I would love to hang out with and learn from. Their personalities and histories are so different, but so well-realized I truly feel like they (the main four characters) exist and are out there really living life to the fullest somewhere. It was very hard to put this down for sleep and work, and I loved seeing how things played out. Highly recommend!
Pamela Terry is a lifelong Southerner. When the Moon Turns Blue is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: A Place to Land Author: Lauren K. Denton Genre: Fiction Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A hidden past isn’t past at all.
Violet Figg and her sister Trudy have lived a quiet life in Sugar Bend ever since a night forty years ago stole Trudy’s voice and cemented Violet’s role as Trudy’s fierce and loyal protector. Now, Trudy spends her days making sculptures from found objects and speaking via notes written on scraps of paper, while Violet runs their art shop, monitors the bird activity up and down the water, and tries not to think of her one great love she gave up in order to keep her sister safe.
Eighteen-year-old Maya knows where everyone else belongs, but she’s been searching for her own place ever since her grandmother died seven years ago. Moving in and out of strangers’ houses has left her exhausted, so when she sees a flyer on a gas station window for a place called Sugar Bend, she follows the strange pull she feels and finds herself on the doorstep of an art shop called Two Sisters.
When a boat rises to the surface of Little River in the middle of the night, the present and the no-longer-buried past clash, and the future is at stake for Maya, Violet, and Trudy. As history creeps continually closer to the present and old secrets come to light, the sisters must decide if it’s time to face the truth of what happened forty years ago, or risk losing each other and newly formed bonds with those they’ve come to love.
I loved this book! Parts of it are very sad—what Violet and Trudy went through 40 years ago and what Violet had to give up—but the entire story was so immersive and lovely. Lauren K. Denton makes small-town life sound appealing, verging on wonderful. The characters, as always for this author, are fascinating and believable, and the reader just feels at home in the story.
Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. A Place to Land is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harper Muse in exchange for an honest review.)
When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key?
This book….almost broke me. When I finished reading it, I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart. It’s told in multiple timelines: the present with Kayla and fifty years ago, with Ellie. I enjoyed both, but Ellie’s story was by far my favorite.
Reading about Ellie’s struggles during the civil rights movement and the things she experienced was hard but compelling. I loved how it was all tied in to what Kayla was facing at her new house, and I was unprepared for the real story that came out at last. I highly recommend this read! It’s a mystery/thriller wrapped with historical fiction, and I was unable to put it down.
Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. The Last House on the Street is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.
Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.
Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daughters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.
The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.
To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.
Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?
I’m a huge Joshilyn Jackson fan. Her novel gods in Alabama is one of my top 10 favorite books ever. I discovered her quite by accident, fell in love with the voice of her stories, and realized Southern fiction was a thing.
Mother May I is more of a thriller than her other novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The character arc that Bree experiences during the short time period of this novel is incredible to experience, and I was up early finishing up this novel before my day started. Highly recommend! (Also, this cover is perfect!)
Joshilyn Jackson is a bestselling author. Mother May I is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.)
Lila Bruce Breedlove never quite felt at home in Wesleyan, Georgia, especially after her father’s untimely demise when she was a child. Both Lila and her brother, Henry, fled north after high school, establishing fulfilling lives of their own. In contrast, their younger sister, Abigail, opted to remain behind to dote on their domineering, larger-than-life mother, Geneva. Yet despite their independence, Lila and Henry know deep down that they’ve never quite reckoned with their upbringing.
When their elderly mother dies suddenly and suspiciously in the muscadine arbor behind the family estate, Lila and Henry return to the town that essentially raised them. But as they uncover more about Geneva’s death, shocking truths are revealed that overturn the family’s history as they know it, sending the pair on an extraordinary journey to chase a truth that will dramatically alter the course of their lives.
I love the voice in this! Granted, Southern fiction is one of my absolute favorite genres, but the voice is phenomenal. The author does a wonderful job of portraying life in a southern town—with all its vivid, memorable characters—as well as the beauty of Scotland and its people. Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about this. Just go read it!
Pamela Terry is a lifelong Southerner. The Sweet Taste of Muscadines is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)
After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.
Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes
Susan Kaplan Carlton lives in New Hampshire. In the Neighborhood of True is newly out in paperback.
I’ve always enjoyed reading about debutante life, because it seems like such a foreign concept to me, even though I was born and raised in the South. The debs Ruth ends up hanging out with were such quintessential southern girls—bless their hearts—sweet as sugar on the surface, but judgmental, mean, and ugly on the inside.
Ruth has had her entire world upended, so her struggles to figure out who she is are relatable, as are her fears. In the land of sweet tea and a façade of manners—Atlanta in the 50s—there isn’t much room for someone who is different, but Ruth’s journey taught her strength and pride in being herself—not who everyone wanted her to be.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)
Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.
Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!
I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable: light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.
Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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, 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, 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, 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.
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.)