Friday, October 29, 2010

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

From the author's website: When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, she would stop fornicating with every boy who crossed her path, and she'd never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found.
Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old school-mate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene's African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he's gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption - and love.

Loved it! Just like Backseat Saints. This book actually came first but I read it second and I am so glad. I had listened to Backseat Saints on audio, read by the author in her great Southern drawl. Because I had done that first, I could still hear her voice in my head as I read this one and that made it just that much more enjoyable. With both these books, I didn't want them to end but couldn't stop myself from reading non-stop practically straight through. Great reads, can't wait to get my hands on her other books.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom

From the Goodreads description: Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom's old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.

Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he'd left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor--a reformed drug dealer and convict--who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

This one was exactly what I expected, Mitch Albom is predictable. I've read his most popular books, Tuesday With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and For One More Day and enjoyed each one. They have all been bestsellers and, something I didn’t know, made into TV movies. (I really live in a TV/cinema void - so many books I read have been made into movies and I've not heard of most much less seen them.) So knowing going in that the story would be gentle, faith building, and leave one feeling like there is hope for the human race, I got exactly that. It must be why his books are so popular because most of us want to gently be reminded of God's love and the hope that brings.

My favorite quote from this book:
"Faith is about doing. You are how you act not just how you believe." If every person who felt some spirituality put some of it into practice in our communities, how much poverty, hunger, child abuse, and illiteracy could we relieve?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

From the author's website: Ro Grandee is the perfect Texas housewife. She's determined to be nothing like her long-missing mother, the one who left her with only a heap of old novels and her father's fists for company, so Ro keeps quiet and takes her husband's punches like a lady. But Ro wasn't always this way. Underneath her pastel skirts and hidden bruises lies Rose Mae Lolley, teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol. Rose Mae is resurrected when a gypsy's tarot cards foretell doom for dutiful Ro: her handsome husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Let me tell you how much I liked this book (and then she commenced to gush!), I can't, words can hardly do it. This is my new favorite. I was so lucky to win this in audio in a giveaway hosted by Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. The author, Joshilyn Jackson, narrates the book and she does an outstanding job. She has an accent that screams Southern and great timing for the comic lines. The book is not comical but she draws the humor out of the heart wrenching circumstances of abuse and abandonment and fear, lots of fear, there were so many times I was afraid for Ro's life. Isn't that the sign of a great book - when you actually physically fear for the character's well being? Knowing full well that Ro Grandee is a figment of Joshilyn Jackson's imagination, I still had my stomach in knots and my heart pounding worrying for her. I just hated for the book to end; I felt like my friend had moved away. And then I turned around and found gods in Alabama waiting for me and I started in on it right away!

Joshilyn Jackson has a blog, Faster than Kudzu and she has two other books that I haven't read yet, Between, Georgia and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. So I guess I will have a few tidbits to feed my desire to hear her voice again.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Some sort of virus caught me - specifically affecting Blogger. Every time I opened Blogger, my husband and I both lost our internet connection and it would take several minutes to reboot both computers. Harrumph. We ran some clean up stuff last night and I seem to be back in the saddle this morning. Hooray!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Breaking Night; A Memoir by Liz Murray

From the Goodreads description: In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.

What a disturbing yet captivating look into the world of homeless youth and families struggling with drugs; Liz Murray's account of her youth is a page turner. Even though I knew she ended up at Harvard, I still feared for her and wanted to keep reading to get to the happy ending. The ending is uplifting and heartwarming but I wouldn't describe it as "happy"; surviving such an ordeal does not leave one unscarred and, of course, only Liz survived, there are still so many familes and youths struggling. Some reviews I read were less satisfied with the story because they had seen the movie first. I'm glad I came into it cold because I enjoyed it very much. Reviewers thought the "movie Liz" was a more appealing character but they don't aknowledge that "movie Liz" was an interpretation while these worsd in the memoir are Liz's real words, her real experiences, thoughts and feelings, her real life. Her real life is fascinating.

I read this book for the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Virtuos Woman by Kaye Gibbons and Cancer Update #5

Dad was in the hospital having surgery - that is actually good news. The chemotherapy and radiation were so successful that the only cancer left was the original tumor in the lung so they cut that bad boy out. Spending the day at his bedside during recovery, I knew I would need a book. I plucked this one off the shelves because I am closing in on the end of the A-Z Reading Challenge and I needed a "V" book. Didn't know until I flipped it open that it is the story of "a virtuous woman" who dies from lung cancer. Not sure what the word would be to describe that ..irony, satire, allusion, just plain bad luck? But despite that, the book was a good choice. Dad is still in the hospital, it has been one week now and we are eager for news that he can go home. I'll keep you posted.

From the Amazon product description: The virtuous woman is Ruby Pitt Woodrow, .... The daughter of prosperous farmers, Ruby runs off with a migrant worker who treats her badly, then abandons her far from home. When she meets Jack, a man 20 years her senior, she's working as a cleaning woman in another prosperous farmer's house. Jack is a man women don't look at even once, let alone twice; Ruby is a woman who needs someone to take care of her. Out of this unlikely union grows a quiet kind of love that is no less powerful for being unstated.
I can hardly remember Kaye Gibbon's first novel, Ellen Foster, except that I remember I liked it. This book shares a setting and a few characters with that one but the only name I recognized was Ellen. A Virtuous Woman starts out with the title character already dead and goes back and forth between present and past to tell us the story. It worked for me because it meant short chapters in an already short book for a reader, who at the time, had a pretty short attention span. (Read a chapter, blood pressure check, read a chapter, skin assessment team visits, read a chapter, chaplain drops by, read a chapter, central line check, continue for the entire day and are not restful places.) The description reads of a "love unstated"; there was no flowery romantic language. The book was plain spoken like the people it told about and the most beautiful expression of love comes after Ruby has already passed. Even though it hit a little close to home, I enjoyed this one.

This book is my "V" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bless Your Heart, Tramp by Celia Riverbank

From Goodreads: Southerners sometimes try to convince us that they're just like northerners, but Celia Rivenbark knows better. In her new titter-inducing tome, Celia introduces culturally impoverished Yankees to the joys of "womanless wedding" fundraisers, fried turkey, and Budweiser couture. It's even more fun than church-social gossip

(This was one I read last year Oct 2010 and am just getting caught up on posting now in Mar 2011. So, without further ado, here are my notes and nothing more!)
Loved it! Very funny. Especially the teaser for the next book about the trip to Disney World. Some of my favorite essays were titled...When did Redbook get so trashy? Happy meal hostage, Cat tooth brushing. Her humor reminds me a lot of Wendi Aarons although with three books under her belt and another on the way it probably should be the other way around. Check out her website she has a weekly column that she posts that will give you a nice taste of her style. Picture on the back looks like a demure southern lady, not the trash talking author she reveals in the book.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White

From the Amazon product description: Melanie has grown accustomed to renovating old houses, but she never imagined she'd have to renovate her own life to include her estranged mother. Ginnette Prioleau Middleton left Charleston thirty-five years ago. She's returned wanting to protect the daughter she's never really known after receiving an ominous premonition. Melanie never wanted to see her mother again, but with some prodding from her partner, Jack Trenholm, she agrees-and begins to rebuild their relationship. Together Melanie and Ginnette buy back their old home. With their combined psychic abilities they expect to unearth some ghosts. But what they find is a vengeful dark spirit whose strength has been growing for decades. It will take unearthing long buried secrets to beat this demon and save what's left of Melanie's family...

I love the cover quote "Southern Living meets the Southern unliving.." It sums up that this book has Karen White's Southern charm but is more heavy into the ghosts than her other works. The "still to be consumated" romance between the heroine and the male lead is getting a bit weary -there comes a point where I say, "Enough already, either hook up or hang it up." Although the rromance got tiring, the ghost elements were more intenese in this book than they were in The House on Tradd Street. There was a lot more physical violence from the ghosts and even though it was very different from my normal fare, I was okay with it. The end of the book was an obvious set-up for another so I guess we're looking at at least a trilogy, maybe a longer series. I'll definitely pick up the next book when it comes out (in paperback though).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

From the Amazon product description: Practical Melanie Middleton hates to admit she can see ghosts. But she’s going to have to accept it. An old man she recently met has died, leaving her his historic Tradd Street home, complete with housekeeper, dog—and a family of ghosts anxious to tell her their secrets.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel despite going in expecting not to like the paranormal element of ghosts. I knew I would like the setting. Charleston is right up the road from me and although we don’t visit often and certainly don’t do the touristy stuff like walking the old neighborhoods, I like knowing it is there for me to do if I so choose and I like reading about it. Karen White captures it so well with her imagery - the porches, the columns, the rockers, she conjures up the historic homes in great detail. The characters were okay. The primary character Melanie has that blind spot that authors so frequently give their female heroines, she can't admit that she's attracted to the male lead, she won't open up to her obvious soul mate even though he is right in front of her waiting with open arms, blah, blah, blech. That is just too Harlequin romance for me and makes me impatient. But I was able to just skim over those parts and also the repeated descriptions of how much junk food Melanie could eat without ever gaining weight - really, who cares? She's skinny, got it. So skimming over the two things that annoyed me took me to the action and I really enjoyed that part. Melanie has a gift in her ability to communicate with ghosts and they come at her from all sides at times with their pleas and their demands. The conflicts with ghosts are more captivating than I imagined they would be and I found myself tensing up and worrying about Melanie's safety at times. As soon as I finished this one I had the next book, The Girl on Legare Street, so that will have to get posted next!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I am running a wee bit late but I finally got to the party! I enjoyed reading other (prompter) bloggers posts about the books they read for banned books week. I liked looking at all the banned books lists and seeing how many off of each one I had read - shamefully low numbers as always! But the best part of Banned Books Week was reading To Kill A Mockingbird because (gasp) I had never read it before!

From the Amazon product description: "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

I really should have gotten to this one sooner, it is good and I've had fifty years to get around to it since this is the 50th anniversary year. I am intimidated by the classics but once started this was an easy read and hard to put down. I loved that the story is told through the eyes of these young children, their innocence is such a contrast to the evils around them. I won't go on about how great it is because you know that. I'll tell you the one really good thing that experienced...Tween liked it. He had to read it for school which was the impetus for me finally picking it up as well. And he liked it. He was ahead of me and eager to talk about it as I read. He wanted to tell me more of what happens but restrained himself because he wanted me to enjoy the story unfolding too. Tween has been a tough reading nut to crack and I certainly can't say that any flood gates have opened but it is a first, a book he enjoys, it proves that such a thing exists and now we just have to try to find another one.