☕ Book Break ☕ |~Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner~

 

I’ve been meaning to review this one for a while and right now it is on sale for Kindle for $1.99. It seems like a good time to post about it!

~Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner~

I find stories about this time period intriguing. WWII novels and nonfiction have been a special interest of mine for the last fifteen years or so, I suppose because we are fast losing those who experienced the war.

This is a story about choices and consequences and this is skillfully illustrated throughout.

I didn’t connect with the title, but have read many of her books and selected this after reading As Bright As Heaven. I got another of her titles at the same time, titled A Bridge Across the Ocean, about the time period immediately after WWII and kept confusing the two.

Loved the idea of a bridal shop, and the revisiting of the “bride’s box” of bridal gown sketches throughout. A good afternoon read. Everything ties up neatly. This is a story with a point, and the tale is well crafted, delivering the main point in a story readers can enjoy and relate to.

I liked all the characters who had a part. Susan Meissner is a gifted writer. Plenty of good and uplifting messages throughout. I unexpectedly teared up at one scene. I was hooked by Emme’s plight from the beginning and could not put the book down until I knew what happened to Julia!

I do prefer stories set in England to have a bit more of the flavor of England to them in dialog and description, but this was a good novel for those looking for WWII fiction.

☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Storyteller’s Secret: A Novel by Sejal Badani~ 

Bonus Review! I know it’s not Wednesday, but it took me so long to get this up and if you haven’t picked your August selection yet I wanted to let you guys know what I thought about this book.

~The Storyteller’s Secret: A Novel by Sejal Badani~
I chose this as my August Kindle First Read. This wasn’t a book I would have normally selected, but I was glad to have the opportunity to read it. One of the best things about Kindle first reads is that the program reduces my options so I discover new authors I would’ve otherwise passed over.

Jaya is struggling to come to terms with repeated miscarriages and the disintegration of her marriage. Leaving New York behind, she travels to India to reconnect with her mother’s past. .
The story spans of three generations of women. The novel immersed me in a culture I was unfamiliar with. I was fascinated by the people and descriptions. I could relate to each of these women and the story gave me a window into a different world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction, general fiction, or women’s fiction.

A rich, well told, historical/contemporary read. This novel was a wonderful surprise. If you haven’t selected your August first reads choice, this is a good one. I plan to look for more by this author.This book has no language or graphic violence.

Do you have kindle first reads? What book did you pick?

Giveaway and Interview With Author Donna Everhart

THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET by Donna Everhart

“Readers will find The Road to Bittersweet to be a lovingly crafted coming-of-age novel set in the unforgiving Carolina hills. Everhart understands the mindset of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood as her world fills with hardship, betrayal, and the wonderment of growing up. Readers will be struck by how beautifully Everhart captures the dialect of her well-drawn characters and the landscape – both harsh and beautiful. Here is a story that tugs at the heartstrings with its believability and evocative prose, leaving readers believing there is always hope when a family stands together.”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Everhart (The Education of Dixie Dupree, 2016) is a good storyteller and makes her characters and their experiences come alive.”  Booklist

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I loved this book! I won a signed copy of Donna Everhart’s The Road to Bittersweet from the facebook group A Novel Bee, no strings attached. I enjoyed this novel so much, I asked Donna if she would come and chat with us a bit.

If you like coming of age stories with a strong voice, you should check out Donna’s work. I think The Road to Bittersweet is a great selection for book clubs.

~ GIVE AWAY ~  GIVE AWAY  ~ GIVE AWAY! ~

I thought you guys might like this book, so I decided to GIVE AWAY a kindle copy. Details below.

 

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Listen to The Pretty One by Pam Tillis, written about the book, The Road to Bittersweet.

 

 

As a reader, I seem to be drawn to historical settings. The Road to Bittersweet is set in the 1940s. Have you always been interested in that particular time in history?  

Not so much 1940 in of itself, but really anything from the 70s or earlier.  For instance, all of my books take place in the 40s, 50s or 60s.  I like writing about those times because while there were complex issues going on relative to what might have been in the news, lifestyles were much simpler than today.  For example, there were two, maybe three channels on TV to watch, and TV was the only medium – compared to the hundreds of channels today, plus we have all of these various devices on which we can watch those hundreds of shows.  Here’s another one – Oreos.  It’s a strange example, but an Oreo cookie used to be this one type of cookie, dark chocolate wafer with a cream filling.  Then came Double Stuff. Then came vanilla wafers.  Then mint flavored filling.  Then colors for holidays.  Just the other day I saw . . . Cherry Cola flavored.   I bet there might be fifteen varieties of the Oreo cookie now.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I love Wallis Ann’s resilience and grit. Where did you find the inspiration for her character? 

Partly it came from books I’ve read where hardship was overcome through sheer will and determination.  For instance, some of my favorite characters who are similar to Wallis Ann would be Julie Harmon from Robert Morgan’s GAP CREEK, or Ruby and Ada in Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN.  They were confronted by what seem like impossible situations, yet managed to overcome it by working hard, and keeping an attitude of persistence.  So, Wallis Ann certainly came from the influence of those stories, plus my own desire to create characters people can relate to and admire for their endurance and fortitude.  I would also say there’s a bit of me in these characters I write about, because I’m always thinking, how would I react?  What would I do?  Would I do this – or not?  Etc. etc.  Also, there is nothing better, in my opinion, than to have readers come away from a story feeling wrung out, yet happy with how it all turned out.

When you were researching for this book, what historical tidbit or event did you find most interesting? 

Some years ago my husband and I hiked to a historic cabin in Doughton Park, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The structure survived the 1916 Basin Cove flood, and this cabin was the impetus for the story.  The family that lived there consisted of eight people, two adults and six children, and it was fascinating to know how they lived and thrived there before the flood.  It was a very rustic cabin, no bigger than about three hundred square feet.  The closest town was eight miles away.  They were true survivalists, killing for meat, growing vegetables and fruit trees, hauling water, chopping wood, preserving foods, sewing their own clothes, milking cows, and on and on.  Their job was never-ending, but they were used to that hardscrabble life.  And yet, I could see how a flood would be an incentive to leave because all they’d worked for would be gone.  How would they expect to get back to where they’d been?  What if they’d stayed?  Could they have recovered?  It was interesting to explore these questions.

What life lesson did you learn while writing your novel? 

I had no idea where this story was headed at times, or what I was doing, but I kept at it, persevering like Wallis Ann.  In a nutshell, perseverance is a wonderful thing – as long as you know when to try a different approach if something isn’t working and don’t beat yourself up over it if the goal you intended to reach shifts – or changes altogether.

What are you working on now?

Well, my third book is done.  It’s a story that takes place in 1955, on a cotton farm in Jones County, NC.  All of my books are coming of age stories, and my main character in this one is a twelve year old girl named Sonny Creech, a girl who loves cotton farming, her family’s land, and knows how to divine water.  After a tragedy, she and her family become entangled with a reclusive, bigoted neighbor.  I’m really excited about that story.  It’s in the production phase, meaning I’ve already been through the copy editing part.  I’ll soon receive page proofs, the final step before it goes to print.  The title is THE FORGIVING KIND and it’ll be out in February of 2019.

My newest project is in the really (I mean REALLY) ugly first draft stage.  This story’s main character is sixteen year old Jessie Sasser and she’s quite unhappy with her lot in life.  Born into a family legacy of moonshining, she wants no part of it because she’s certain this is what killed her mother.   So far, I’m having fun with it, while trying not to pull my hair out.

Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author who writes stories of family hardship and troubled times in a bygone south.  A native of North Carolina, she resides in her home state with her husband and their tiny heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, Mister.  Readers can visit her at www.donnaeverhart.com.

 

 

Thank you for visiting with us, Donna! I can’t wait to read The Forgiving Kind. 

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Giveaway Time! I am giving away one kindle copy of The Road to Bittersweet. Click here to go to the entry form.

Here’s a question for my readers. I love coming of age stories. What’s your favorite coming of age novel? Do you have one you recommend?

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

~Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford~ “Parents always have a story that their children don’t really know.” “I wonder if the best thing any of us can hope for in life is a soft place to land.”

“Sometimes you need to feel the sadness, you need to feel everything to finally leave it behind, to have peace.”

I chose this book out a recommended list based on the title. In 1962 Seattle, Ernest Young is dealing with his wife’s memory loss and her troubled mental condition. This is historical fiction and love story combines, but is more than that. There is a lot of story packed into this novel that didn’t feel at all like a long read. Never once did it seem to drag.

The story moves back and forth from 1962 and the 1902 World’s Fair. Ernest, half-chinese and half American, came to America when he was five years old after his mother could no longer care for him, sending him away rather than see him starve. After he arrives, life is not easy. He is twelve years old when he gets to attend the 1902 World’s fair only to find that he is being raffled off “to a good home”. His benefactor, who up to this point has paid for his schooling and upkeep, is offering him as a prize. When the owner of a high class brothel comes to claim him, intent on making him a houseboy, Ernest’s guardian balks, but in the end Ernest goes home with the Madame.

There actually was a raffle held for a child at the 1902 World’s Fair, and his name was Ernest, but he was an infant and never claimed.

Full of historical tidbits. This story made me reflect on human nature and love. I will look for more books by Jamie Ford.

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

~The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck~ “Once you tell a lie, you have to keep tellin’ and tellin’ and tellin’ to make it stand.”

I passed this one by more than once, but as it gained popularity my curiosity was peaked. This book proves the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Ora Lee Beckworth hires the Pecan Man, pronounced Pee-can, a homeless black man, do do yard work for her. When a young man turns up stabbed to death, the murder is pinned on the Pecan Man, but Ora Lee knows the truth. The year is 1976 and the voice is authentic. I felt like I was listening to an actual person telling me about real life events. Ora Lee is finally coming clean and telling what she knows about the murder, who really committed the act, and the horrific events that led up to it.

I made the mistake of starting to listen to this book late one evening thinking it would put me to sleep. Instead it kept me up! I listened to the audio version read by Suzanne Toren, who performed the book wonderfully.

Click here for Book Club Questions for The Pecan Man.

Waskom Reads Before We Were Yours and An Interview with Lisa Wingate

I had a wonderful time meeting friends both old and new at the Waskom library for a book discussion. I love to talk about books! It was a good turnout for a great novel. The book selected for this meeting was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.

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For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale—an engrossing new novel, inspired by a true story, about two families, generations apart, that are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice. Before We Were Yours brilliantly fictionalizes and brings to life one of America’s most notorious adoption scandals. 

 From the 1920s through 1950, thousands of children of single mothers and poverty-stricken parents were taken away — sometimes even quietly whisked off front porches or from hospital maternity wards — by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and its Memphis branch director, Georgia Tann. While heartbroken birth mothers searched for their stolen sons and daughters, the children were often kept in unlicensed boarding facilities and given new names and histories before being transported around the country to adoptive parents who could afford to pay.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. Before We Were Yours was one of the best historical novels I read in 2017. You can read my Book Break post about it here.

I don’t get to visit the Waskom library often, but the draw of a good book discussion and the bonus of the library’s recent face lift piqued my interest. I wanted to come out and see what it was all about. You can learn what’s new at the library by checking out this video on a local news site here. 

If you live nearby or are just passing through, you should stop by and enjoy the library. The staff is wonderful, some of the friendliest people around. The Waskom public library serves the surrounding area, so you don’t have to live in town to be a patron, and a library card is free.

For more information on the Waskom library you can visit them at  waskompubliclibrary.org or hop over to the Waskom Public Library facebook page.

 

Lisa, along with fellow author Kellie Coates Gilbert, came to the Waskom library a while back and gave us a presentation, and they did an amazing workshop that was well attended. When I asked Lisa if she remembered us she said she sure did! She graciously provided answers to these interview questions.

What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?

Because Before We Were Yours is fiction, I was able to thread in what I felt were the most interesting pieces of the true-life history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. One interesting aspect of the true story that isn’t in the novel is the special investigation that was conducted as Georgia Tann’s operation was finally shut down in 1950. The original Report to Governor Browning was filled with information about Tann’s nefarious methods, the deaths of children in her system of unregulated boarding homes, and the sheer panic of adoptive families who were terrified that the children they’d raised for years would be taken away. There were also some wonderful newspaper stories written years later, telling the reunion stories of birth families finally reunited.

How much research did you have to do for this book?

The book was research-intensive. I took in nearly everything I could find about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis and Georgia Tann. In large part, I found bits of the story here and bits there. The Discovery Channel’s Deadly Women feature and a 60 Minutes segment provided helpful information and visuals. Several books, including, Babies For Sale by Linda Austin and The Baby Thief by Barbara Raymond were particularly helpful in researching the adoption scandal. Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat Journal was a beautiful account of shantyboat life on the river. I also spent time in Memphis, researching locations, combing through the river museum, visiting the library and the university’s photo archives, and talking to people who remembered the scandal.

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

I hope readers take away the message that we need not be defined by our pasts. I hope Rill’s experience resonates with readers who have in some way surrendered to the wounds of painful past experiences. Rill faces that battle as she matures. As an old woman, she advises thirty-year-old Avery, “A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear it, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.” Living in a defensive posture is another form of allowing other people to dictate who we are and what we believe about ourselves. Letting go, dancing to our own music is a risk, but on the other side of that process lays light, freedom and fulfillment. That’s what I hope that’s what people take away from Before We Were Yours. Our lives have purpose, but to fulfill that purpose we must first claim ourselves.

I also hope that, in a broader sense, the story of Rill and the Foss children serves to document the lives of all the children who disappeared into Georgia Tann’s unregulated system. Only by remembering history are we reminded not to let it repeat itself. It’s important that we, ordinary people busy with the rush of every day life, remember that children are vulnerable, that on any given day, thousands of children live the uncertainty of Rill’s journey. We have to be aware. We must be kind neighbors, determined protectors, willing encouragers, wise teachers, and strong advocates, not just for the children who are ours by birth, but for all children.

Additional Links

Lisa Wingate’s Website

The Untold Story Guru: Because good stories should be found, not lost

Book Club Kit for Before We Were Yours

 

Thank you, Lisa!

If you are looking for a good book to read, you can’t beat this novel. Have you read it yet? What did you think?

Leave a comment, share, and all that.

Don’t forget to go visit a library this week!

 

 

 

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

~The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah~

In 1974, 13 year old Leni’s father announces that they will be moving to Alaska. Her father, Ernt, has been gifted with a homestead. Leni and her parents pack their belongings in a VW bus and head north. They are ill prepared for the wilderness that greets them. The community pools together to help the trio, but they quickly learn that the environment is a harsh and unforgiving one.
Even worse, the long winters aggravate Ernt’s mental condition. He was a POW and has nightmares coupled with a violent temper. Cora, Lani’s mother takes the brunt of Ernt’s violence, but the situation soon escalates.

Kristin Hannah tackles a tough subject in this book, and I think she did a good job of portraying the complexity of one facet of domestic abuse. I mostly liked this novel. While it kept my interest, it was difficult for me to relate to the main characters. The women were too weak for my liking and this frustrated me. I wanted them to figure out how to stop being victims, but I think that was one of the points of the story. I cared enough about the characters to finish the book in a short period of time.

Victims of domestic abuse often cannot find their way out. The convoluted thinking of the abused wife shows her reasoning and ability to live in denial. The characters were completely believable. I think this is a realistic portrayal of women in this situation.
This is a long book. I liked the first half better than the second, which seemed to drag in spots to me. It felt like a genre shift, but then returned to the familiar story telling of the first half.

This novel is well worth the read, and I recommend it. Kristin Hannah fans will love this book. The vivid descriptions of Alaska and the community there made me want to visit. Not in winter, though!