Monthly Archives: July 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall *Review*

My grandmother said she prays for me every day.  Which was funny, because I’d only ever heard Mamie pray “Dear Lord, give me strength.”  That sure sounded like a prayer for herself- and Mrs. Knopp in Sunday school always said our prayers should only ask for things for others.  Once I made the mistake of saying that out loud to Mamie and got slapped into next Tuesday for my sassy mouth.  My mouth always worked a whole lot faster than my good sense.

graveSo starts the novel by Susan Crandall entitled Whistling Past the Graveyard, a coming of age story featuring nine-year-old Starla Claudelle whose  sassy mouth and need to stand up for what’s right tends to get her in trouble more often than not.

Seeing a girl she knows getting picked on by a bully Starla steps in and clocks the boy in the nose.  Her grandma grounds her and fearful that she’s going to miss all the fun on the fourth of July she sneaks out to watch the parade,  However, one of her nosy neighbors sees her and is getting ready to cart her home to her Mamie to face the music.  Scared that she’ll get in even more trouble and have to be sent to boarding school, Starla runs away.  She believes if she can make it to Nashville her mother Lulu, who is trying to become a country star in Nashville, will help her set things straight.  On her journey she meets Eula, a black woman in 1963 Mississippi, who is traveling with a white baby.  Eula has more secrets than where the baby comes from though!

Along their journey, Starla and Eula form a friendship and a bond so close that even the prejudices of the time can’t tear it apart, and Starla learns a valuable lesson about family.

Narrated in Starla’s voice, I was instantly drawn in by the opening paragraph.  The voice Susan uses for Starla is so believable I can easily picture Starla’s personality- and she has a big one.  Even though she’s a smart mouthed little bugger she has a heart of gold and can’t help opening her mouth when things aren’t right even when she’s warned it will cause less trouble if she just stays quiet.

Eula immediately captured my heart as a woman who has so much love to give that her heart is overflowing because she has no one to give it to until Starla comes along.  Eula has a troubled past and with the help of Starla she learns some lessons about herself as well.

I love, love, LOVED this book!  I took this novel camping with me and left it next to my sleeping bag while we ran to the nearest town for an hour one sunny afternoon for supplies.  By the time we got back to camp the skies had opened up and it was pouring…and I had forgotten to shut the windows in the tent!  The last 100 pages or so of this book where sopping wet.  I had to stand over the fire and dry the pages out so I could turn them without them tearing and disintegrating in my hands!  But well worth every extra minute I had to stand over the campfire while the smoke rolled! (let it be noted that I did not take the time to dry my sleeping bag!)

Please pick up this book.  I am predicting it will one day be a classic.  Starla is being compared to Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and with the echoes of the Deep South that run through both stories I think it’s a fitting comparison.

5/5 stars

 

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I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan *Review*

be seeingIt’s January 1943 when Rita Vincenzo receives her first letter from Glory Whitehall. Glory is an effervescent young mother, impulsive and free as a bird. Rita is a sensible professor’s wife with a love of gardening and a generous, old soul. Glory comes from New England society; Rita lives in Iowa, trying to make ends meet. They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home.

Brought together by an unlikely twist of fate, Glory and Rita begin a remarkable correspondence. The friendship forged by their letters allows them to survive the loneliness and uncertainty of waiting on the home front, and gives them the courage to face the battles raging in their very own backyards. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support.

I loved this story of these two  long distance letter writing ladies who through tears, trials and time became “sisters” and best friends!  Glory picks a name out of a hat at a support group for military wives and starts writing to “Garden Witch” a woman in Iowa with a knack for gardening.  Soon “Garden Witch” a.k.a Rita starts writing back.  They pour out their dreams, fears, and souls to each other.  They pray for each other in times of sickness, give each other advice on victory gardening and even share recipes in times of rationing.   The bond they share is one that can not be broken by differences in age or distance in miles. They share a love for each other that is very strong.

I was intrigued to learn that the co-authors, as of the printing of this book,  had not met!  It makes the book more genuine to me to know they are not sitting next to each other on their laptops sharing ideas over the tops of their monitors.  For the most part they e”mail” letters back and forth to each other and that is how the story develops!

If you like books about friendship and the war years (but mostly about friendship) you will love this story and the women it.  4/5 stars

Already Home by Susan Mallery *Review*

Recently the book club I am in did its 2nd annual book swap.  This is not like a swap meet where you go to buy and choose the things you like.  This is “book swap” as in you get handed a book by someone else and you’re stuck with it.  You must read it.  Each year, The Bookies are asked to bring a favorite book of theirs all wrapped up.  These books are put in a pile and we take turns choosing a book out of the pile without knowing what we are getting or from whom.

Everyone in our book club has vastly different tastes in books which I think is one of the things that makes us so successful.  Many different opinions makes for very good book discussions.  And while you may not always agree with those opinions, you respect them and learn from them.  But, it can make a book swap a little scary!

already  homeThis year the book I picked out of a pile of wrapped up books was Susan Mallery’s Already Home.  Not as scary as a few of the other books that got picked…but not really my type of book.  It looked like a straight up starry eyed romance.  But I have learned to never judge a book by it’s cover!  🙂

Already Home had me almost from the beginning.  The author’s writing style flowed so easily.  It was simple to consume large amounts of text at one sitting.  But even better than the ease with which the words flowed was the strength of her characters.  I knew them and I loved them right away.

Already Home is about a woman named Jenna who left California to move back home to Texas after a divorce that shook her confidence.  Without thinking, she signs a three year lease on a retail establishment  intending for it to become a kitchen store  before she remembers she has no retail experience.  She’s just a chef, and questioning whether she’s even a good one.

Shortly after she opens her store a couple walks in and introduces themselves as her birth parents; people she has never had any desire to reconnect with because she loves Beth and Marshall, her adoptive parents unconditionally.  This kind of shakes her world.

Along with all of this, there is a strong subplot going.  Her employee Violet meets up with a man who is different then the bad boys she’s used to being involved with and she sets out to impress him.

I was emotionally invested in each of these characters.  From her loving adoptive mom Beth who encourages her to spend time getting to know her kooky, kind of hippy birth mother Serenity, to her employee Violet who becomes her best friend  and part of the family.  Each character had a warmth about them that I cherished.

I enjoyed this year’s book swap.  Hopefully, the book I put into another’s hand will be as loved  as this one was.     4/5 stars