Tag: Southern fiction

Book Review and Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton

in the neighborhood of true
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:   In the Neighborhood of True
Author:   Susan Kaplan Carlton
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.0 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, by Daven McQueen

juniper jones
Image belongs to Wattpad Books.

Title:   The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones
Author Daven McQueen
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t—open, kind, and full of acceptance.

Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

This is an excellent read! I was by turns horrified (by people’s treatment of Ethan) and enchanted (by Juniper and her personality) throughout the entire book. I’m sure the portrayal of life in small-town Alabama in 1955 is accurate. Sadly. But it’s interesting to see how far we’ve come as a society—and how far we still have to go.

Juniper is such a quirky, spirited character, and I enjoyed her antics so much! It was sad seeing Ethan’s realization of how life in Alabama was different from what he’d known. I loved this read!

Daven McQueen lives in Boston. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Wattpad Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Southern Double Cross, by Caroline Fardig

southern double cross
Image belongs to Random House/Alibi.

Title:  Southern Double Cross
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Quinn Bellandini is minding her own business, living life and wishing she were back at the B & B she runs with her sister, Delilah, and her grandfather, instead of trying to pull off a fundraising gala—and keep the high society guests from sniping at each other and causing a ruckus. Then Quinn gets a call from her friend Pepper, working for the event’s caterer. Pepper tells her the hostess—and owner of the mansion hosting the gala—has been found dead.

Soon enough, Pepper’s brother has been charged with murder and Pepper insists the Bellandini sisters clear his name. Quinn’s questions only lead to more questions. The victim had more frenemies than you can shake a stick at. The catering company’s employees are shady at best. And then there are the rumors about the victim and her ex-husband’s rekindled relationship. Quinn isn’t sure where to start, but with her boyfriend Tucker’s help and the irrepressible Delilah on the case, she gives it her best shot.

I enjoyed this entry into the Southern B & B Mystery series (it looks to be the last, too). The writing is solid. Savannah, Georgia comes to life—as does the high society crowd that populates the pages. I’ve enjoyed watching Quinn and Tucker’s relationship grow, and the sisters are fun to read as well.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Double Cross is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Alibi in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig

southern harm
Image belongs to Alibi.

Title:  Southern Harm
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery/thriller, women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

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.

 

 

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: Second Chance at Two Love Lane, by Kieran Kramer

second chance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Second Chance at Two Love Lane
Author:  Kieran Kramer
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   3 out of 5

Ten years ago, Ella and Hank were both struggling actors with big dreams. Instead of taking a big role, Ella refused as a show of support for Hank. Instead of a proposal, she got dumped when Hank got a big break, something Hank has always regretted. He still loves Ella, but she has a new life.

She acts in community theater, but she’s also a matchmaker at Two Love Lane, doing her best to solve the problems of her clients’ love lives and see them happy. When Hank comes to town to shoot a leading role, he gets Ella a bit part, and wants to make things work between them. But Ella knows he’ll just leave her behind again when fame’s demands take him out of Charleston.

I didn’t realize this is the third book in the series, but they’re written as standalones, so that doesn’t affect anything. For me, the characters weren’t very fleshed out, and some of them came across more as caricatures than anything. Very one dimensional. The entire plot felt very bare-bones and too easy, and one of the subplots seemed rather pointless and did not add anything to the story.

Kieran Kramer is a USA Today best-selling author and has an MFA from The College of Charleston. Second Chance at Two Love Lane is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Southern Discomfort, by Caroline Fardig

southern discomfort
Image belongs to Alibi Publishing.

Title:  Southern Discomfort
Author:  Caroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery, Southern Fiction
Rating:  4/5

Quinn Bellandini runs a B&B with her grandfather, her sister Delilah, and the ghost of her late uncle Frank—whom everyone but Quinn believes in. She bakes scones, keeps the B&B running smoothly, and plays guitar in a band with her friends. She doesn’t even have time to date.

Her friend Drew runs a restaurant down the street with his brother, Jason, a surly, argumentative guy who fights with everyone—including his wife. When Quinn finds Jason’s body one night, she’s horrified—but not really surprised, considering how everyone disliked Jason.

What does surprise her is her presence near the top of the list of suspects, along with Drew. When Drew suggests they try to uncover a more-likely suspect to save their own necks, Quinn reluctantly agrees. She’s more suited to baking than investigating, but she finds her talent for killing people with kindness to thinly disguise her pointed remarks comes in handy. And she’ll need every trick she has to stay out of jail while she searches for a murderer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Southern Discomfort. I’ve never been to Savannah, but as a born-and-raised Southern girl, I found the setting believable and familiar (especially the popularity of sweet tea). Quinn and Delilah’s relationship was fantastic, and their interactions made the book even better! A great read for cozy mystery fans and anyone who loves Southern fiction.

Caroline Fardig is the author of the Lizzie Hart series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews series. Southern Discomfort is her newest novel, the first in the Southern B&B mystery series.

(Galley provided by Alibi 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.)