logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: appalachia
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-12-14 17:25
Snow In Summer by Jane Yolen
Snow in Summer - Jane Yolen

 

With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.
This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

Goodreads.com

 

 

In this Appalachian re-imagining of the classic tale of Snow White, Jane Yolen introduces us to young West Virginia native Snow-in-Summer, named for the flowers that grow in front of her house. The story opens with Summer sharing the memory of attending her mother's funeral. Summer's biological mother, Ada-Mae died in childbirth, along with Summer's baby brother.

 

I'd been born on July 1, 1937, ten pounds of squalling baby, with a full head of black hair. It was a hard birth that nearly killed Mama. Though the next baby, being even bigger, actually did.

 

Cousin Nancy, who'd been there to help with my birthing, told me all about it later, after Mama died. "White caul, black hair, and all that blood," she said. I shuddered at the blood part, but Cousin Nancy explained it was good blood, not bad. "Not like later," I said, meaning when Mama died, and Cousin Nancy just nodded because nothing more needed to be added.

 

She put her arm around me, adding, "Poor man was so scared he might lose her. And when he came back inside, called by the midwife, he was so relieved that Mama hadn't died, he let her name you."

 

"Snow in Summer," I said.

 

Then she gave me a hug. "Your daddy laughed and said 'We gonna call her all that?' 'We gonna call her Summer,' your mama said. 'It's warm and pretty, just as warm and pretty as she is."

 

"I am," I said. "Warm."

 

"And pretty," Cousin Nancy said, drawing me closer. "Just like your mama." That made me smile, of course. Everyone needs someone to tell them they look pretty. Especially at nine.

 

 

Summer's father, Lemuel Morton, falls into a deep depression following the death of his wife and son. After four years, he just seems to snap out of it, virtually overnight. Shortly after, he remarries a pretty and mysterious woman no one in town has ever met before, only seeing that Lemuel appears obsessively enamored with her. Sure, people have questions, but at the end of the day most are just glad to see Lemuel's spark back again.

 

Summer does her best to be a good stepdaughter --- even when this new wife insists on calling her Snow rather than Summer, and her father never bothers to correct or object --- but inwardly she begins to have suspicions that there is a great deal of darkness within this woman. She knows a secret about this enchantress who has captured her father's heart, but decides to keep the truth to herself for at least a little while, while she sees what else she can learn. The more time she spends around her new stepmother, the more Summer begins to feel herself becoming enchanted, though initially she confuses it for true happiness.

 

But then there's the shift. Suddenly Summer is only allowed limited visitation with her cousin Nancy -- who also suspects there's something shady about Lemuel's new wife --- until Summer's stepmother forbids them from communicating altogether. Nancy is the widow of Lemuel's favorite cousin, Jack, and has served as a sort of surrogate mother to Summer all these years. She's also secretly been in love with Lemuel this whole time.

(I loved the character of Nancy, btw.)

 

Note: The majority of this novel is told from Summer's perspective, but occasionally there are chapters switched to Nancy's view of events. From time to time, the stepmother is also given a brief platform, trying to sell the "I'm not evil, not wicked" line, but knowing the origin story as we do, readers know to be on their guard with her.

 

Lemuel's own behavior begins to turn odd: he grows his beard out all long and grizzly, stops virtually all forms of personal hygiene (he begins to emit a persistent odor of urine), and more and more frequently goes into nonsensical rambling. Shortly after Summer's 12th birthday, her stepmother's abuse begins to turn physical, breaking the child's spirit to the point of convincing Summer she deserves this treatment. Cousin Nancy teaches Summer some white magic to try to combat the stepmother's dark variety. For added protection, Nancy also gives Summer a small bag containing the preserved caul Summer was born with (there's an Appalachian belief that those born with a caul over the head, or "of the veil", will hold the ability to talk with the dead). While the suggestions help, the white magic still proves too weak to overturn the enchantment consuming Lemuel's soul. Summer's salvation --- and that of her family --- will come with Summer learning to have faith in her own strength and abilities, turning this story into the classic theme of a kind, strong heart prevailing over evil.

 

So how does this retelling stack up to its source material? The likenesses are there, but this is definitely a unique story in its own right. But where are the recognizable markers, you wonder?

 

* Summer is a lover of fairytales and is familiar with the story of Snow White, but doesn't make strong connections between that tale and her life, at least not until she stumbles upon the magic mirror.

* The magic mirror does make a few appearances, though not really one of the key powerful elements of the story.

* The "hunter" character here is actually a country boy who has intentions of committing statutory rape (and maybe also murder) under the guise of "courting" Summer... as a favor to the stepmother.

* Yolen also brings back the 7 Dwarves, sort of --- Summer, while trying to flee "the hunter" guy, meets 6 brothers with dwarfism, German immigrant gem miners, with 1 brother away at college.

* Bonus note: Summer's fictional town of Addison is actually inspired by Webster Springs, WV, the real-life hometown of Yolen's late husband.


Snow in Summer is an extended version of a short story (under the same name) Yolen originally had published in the anthology Black Hearts, Ivory Bones. Much like the original fairytale, this novel starts with establishing what a joyous home life Summer and her parents shared prior to her mother's death. With the appearance of the stepmother, Summer's story illustrates the "necessary evil" of evil itself. Sometimes the presence of evil --- or at least hardship --- is just the thing we need to push us out of a stagnant, complacent state, driving us to rise up to our best selves.

 

Though this novel is published through Penguin's Young Readers Group division, parents may want to do a discretionary read prior to handing off to your children, depending on where your personal family guidelines are set. This retelling hits upon some darker themes: illegal moonshining; serpent-handling forms of religion / speaking in tongues; sexual assault / attempted rape, (at least touches upon or alludes to the subject); water sources laced with strychnine. Yolen works in some ecological discussions as well, in the topics of clear-cutting forests and the practice of strip-mining.

 

There are also spoilers for the novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

 

If you get your hands on a hardcover copy, take a minute to take in the cover art --- there's a lot of cool somewhat hidden details throughout the whole piece!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-12-02 10:00
The Melody of the Mulberries Review and GIVEAWAY!
 

About the Book

 


Book: The Melody of the Mulberries

Author: Tonya Jewel Blessing

Genre:  Historic Southern Romance

Release Date: September 16, 2019

This sequel is set in the late 1920s Appalachia, where granny witches and spiritualism often show the path for wanderers to take, especially in matters of the heart.
 
Coral sat in contemplation under a mulberry tree. It was spring, and the fragrant female blossoms promised the mid-summer arrival of first white, then pink, then crimson, and finally deep purple berries. The white berries were hard and tart and enjoyed by the quail, wild turkeys, mocking birds, and blue jays. The blackish purple berries were soft and sweet – perfect for pies and jams.
 
 
When the berries turned white, Coral would thank the good Lord for providing food for the birds, and when the berries ripened she would thank the good Lord for the sweetness savored in her mouth and curse the birds for wanting more than their share.
 
Where Emerald Ashby’s story leaves us in the last pages of The Whispering of the Willows, pure and innocent sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby’s story begins. Like the changing mulberries, Appalachian siblings Coral and Ernest Ashby, navigate their lives and loves through the Spanish Flu epidemic, poverty, and various as sundry prejudices. Coral is determined to visit the family nemesis, Charlie, who now stews in prison.When Ernest’s previous love interest, Mercy, returns to the holler of Big Creek, she discovers that Ernest has a new romantic attraction. He is singing a melody for Charlotte, the older Ashby brother’s widow. No matter, Mercy has brought along her own spiritual tools to circumvent the inconvenience and a special friend who guides her way.

Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully.



Click HERE to get your copy!
 

About the Author

 


More about Tonya Jewel Blessing: Growing up Tonya spent numerous vacations and holidays in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Most of her adult life has been spent in full time ministry with a focus on helping women. She has traveled nationally and internationally as a conference speaker. For a number of years, Tonya and her husband operated a retreat facility in Colorado for pastors and missionaries. She and her husband currently live in South Africa. They are the founders and directors of Strong Cross Ministries, a non-profit organization that assists local churches, pastors, cross-cultural workers, and others in Christian leadership in providing spiritual reconciliation and humanitarian relief to the poorest in the world. Tonya writes monthly devotionals for women in ministry. She is the award-winning novelist of The Whispering of the Willows, which is Book 1 of the Big Creek Series. She is the co-author of Soothing Rain, a discussion starter handbook/devotional that provides women with important tools for sharing biblical truth.
 

More from Tonya

 

Greetings From Author Tonya Jewel Blessing
 
The Melody of the Mulberries is book two in the Big Creek Series. Both books are set during the late 1920s in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia. The Appalachian Mountains were untamed in the 1920s and remain so in part today. The wonder of the hills is breathtaking, magnificent, and glorious.
 
The term “wild wonderful West Virginia” was used as early as 1969 before being adapted in the 1970s as the state slogan.
 
In 1937, my mother, Virginia Ashby, was born in the rural hills of West Virginia. She spent several of her formative years in an area known as Big Creek. I have borrowed my mother’s maiden name, several names from her past, and the name Big Creek.
 
The morning mist hanging in the lowlands, the dew on the ground, along with the green of spring and the deep red, sparkling gold, and brilliant oranges of fall draw me visually, emotionally, and on some level spiritually to its feral fascination. John Denver recorded in his tribute to West Virginia, “Take me home country roads to the place I belong…” Certainly, there are seasons in my life where I long for the steep, curvy country roads of my youth. This is one deeply satisfying reason for writing about hope with connections to West Virginia, a life held close to my heart.
 
It is a pleasure and an honor to share this story with the Celebrate Lit family. My southern story is an authentically derived historical romance for young adults and for women of all ages who love Appalachian lore and West Virginia history. It contains some depictions of spiritualism and traditional Christianity during the 1920s in West Virginia. It continues with the inter-racial dealings between two communities, where, some are friends and some are foes.
 
If anyone would enjoy a free sample of the first audiobook, The Whispering of the Willows, please go to the link and click “play sample”.  This amazing voice actress, Courtney Patterson, will start reading you my story so that you will feel like you are eavesdropping on the Ashby family. Enjoy!
 
Enjoy an excerpt from Tonya’s first book in the series, The Whispering of the Willows, HERE.
 

My Review

 

As a child, one of my favorite books was Cynthia Rylant’s “When I Was Young in the Mountains.” Growing up in rural Ohio, near the border of West Virginia, my home is considered part of Appalachia. I’ve always been drawn to folk music and the backcountry. I remember watching the television adaptation of Catherine Marshall’s “Christy” when I was younger. There is just something fascinating about living off the grid, regardless of the time period: creating a unique community that is self-sustaining and learning what makes it flourish and what holds it together. Set in late 1920s in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Tonya Jewel Blessings’ “The Melody of the Mulberries” presents a wonderful glimpse into this experience.

“The mulberry tree that shaded her from the afternoon sun sang a melody of obedience. It grew, blossomed, and bore fruit in submission to God. All flora and fauna flourished in Big Creek through obedience to the Maker of All Things.”

Despite not having read the previous book, I decided to take a chance and read “The Melody of the Mulberries” anyway, and I am glad that I did. If possible, I would recommend reading “The Whispering of the Willows” first to set the foundation for this sequel, but it is not a prerequisite. I was a bit confused for the first chapter or so; my main problem was keeping the characters straight and remembering who was who, but then again I’m terrible with names, so that could have just been my personal issue. As the story progresses, the main events from the first book receive mention, which helps establish the plot of this second book.

My favorite element was the presentation of beliefs, the amalgamation of Christianity and folklore, and how Ernest in particular does his best to disenchant others from superstitions and lead them instead to Christ. As a teacher, “Ernest thought that education was one of the best ways to combat mountain mysticism.” His wisdom in both book knowledge and spiritual matters reveals his altruistic nature: “He had choices to make. He could choose to let others dictate his life, choose to direct his own life, or make the right choice and allow God to dominate his thoughts and actions.” Two of the other main characters include his sister Coral, 16, and his fellow teacher, Lottie. Although young, Coral is attuned to the voice of God and determined to follow where He leads her, even if it means leaving home to visit a convicted felon who harmed her family. I loved her conviction! Lottie doesn’t take center stage, but her actions prove her to be an encourager and supporter. Something that stood out to me throughout the narrative was how the characters use hymns and songs to talk to God and to minister to others. So often when I am praying or when I read a Scripture verse a Christian praise song or hymn comes to mind, and they can be such a beautiful part of worship!

“The Melody of the Mulberries” does not shy away from tough subjects. It deals with wedlock, race relations, and other issues that continue to be prevalent today, but it is a clean read. Each chapter begins with an epigraph that states an Appalachian folk belief and has an image of a black raspberry branch, with a leaf image used to divide the sections of each chapter. The author’s affinity for alliteration made me smile while reading. It took a few chapters for me to become accustomed to the Appalachian dialect, more so because I was reading it instead of listening to it, but I appreciated its inclusion in the characters’ dialogue because it enhanced the story’s authenticity. As such, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in mountain life, godly living, evangelizing, and tackling challenging topics.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Blog Stops

 

 

Giveaway

 

 
To celebrate her tour, Tonya is giving away the grand prize package of a special pillow and reader’s choice of an eBook or Audiobook of The Whispering of the Willows!!
 
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-09-27 16:34
The Melody of the Mulberries (Big Creek #2) by Tonya Jewel Blessing
The Melody of the Mulberries - Tonya Jewel Blessing

Where Emerald Ashby's story leaves us in the last pages of The Whispering of the Willows, sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby's story begins. Like the changing mulberries, Appalachian siblings Coral and Ernest Ashby, navigate life through the late 1920s. Coral is determined to visit the family nemesis, Charlie, who now stews in prison.

When Ernest's previous love interest, Mercy, returns to the holler of Big Creek, she discovers that his heart is now singing a melody for Charlotte, the older Ashby brother's widow. But Mercy has brought along her own spiritual tools and a special friend who guides her way.

Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

In the first book of the Big Creek series, the plot centered around the troubles of Emerald Ashby, mainly the man who developed a dangerous obsession over her. That man, Charlie, now sits in prison for the kidnapping of Emerald's baby as well as the murder of her eldest brother, Lester. Now, at the beginning of The Melody of the Mulberries, the focus is more on Emerald's youngest sister, Coral. There's also a side story involving the complicated love life of their brother, Ernest.

 

So let's start with Ernest. Ernest had a previously relationship with pretty local Mercy, but Mercy left town after she decided she couldn't stand the scrutiny that came with being in a bi-racial relationship (Ernest is white, Mercy is black). Now, a few years later, Mercy is back in town and pregnant with a mystery man's child. She makes it clear she's hoping to lure Ernest into being the baby daddy, but Ernest's affections have since shifted over to Charlotte (aka Lottie), the widow of Lester. Rather than let that deter her, Mercy seems set on waiting things out until she gets her way. The longer she's around, the more complicated her presence makes things. Does Ernest base his choice on heart's desire or history?

 

Though Ernest does an inner wince whenever Charlotte calls him "brother" out of habit, Charlotte starts to notice her feelings for him have shifted and intensified as well. Just as they were trying to figure out the new boundary lines to their relationship, in walks Mercy. Charlotte, feeling a new kind of stress growing between herself and Ernest, chooses to leave the mountain for a time to let him have a chance to get his head & heart settled. She accompanies Coral to Charleston, SC where Charlie is serving his sentence. 

 

So what would compel young Coral to take the trip to the prison that holds her brother's murderer? Well, Coral tells the family that of late she's felt led by God to go and visit Charlie. Though she fears him, she has this compulsion to try to find the means to forgive him. The rest of the Ashby family struggles to entirely understand all this, but they can see she's set on seeing this through, so Charlotte tags along to at least make sure Coral is chaperoned and safe. The trip turns complicated when Coral falls victim to an influenza epidemic roaring through Charleston that year.

 

Just as with the first book, each chapter in this sequel starts with a bit of Appalachian folklore... a historical touch I quite like, though some of the saying may seem highly laughable to the modern reader. A few of my favorites:

 

* If you tell a bad dream before breakfast, it will come true. (So don't tell your spouse anything right when you're startled awake, I guess LOL)

 

 

* If you whistle before breakfast, you will cry before dusk (God help the person who wakes up in a good mood, eh!) 

* To get rid of warts, steal someone's dishcloth and bury it. The warts will go away. (Don't cut your eyes at me, Pamela. That was a medical emergency!) 

 

There are also cute tiny mulberry leaf prints scattered through out the pages, sometimes to signify a scene change, sometimes just because!

 

The plot here had a very meandering way about it, where some ideas for main conflicts were presented, but then put to the side to lay more emphasis on just getting to know the Big Creek community in general (For example, A LOT of story time dedicated to descriptions of bear watching!) Sometimes I didn't mind it, other times I would've liked the story to have more defined direction and better paced action. 

 

It took til near book's end for Coral's story to really come alive and get good, but I loved her bravery of spirit that shined through all her scenes, particularly this one with prison guard James, whom she had developed a bit of a crush on, until she became aware of his temper problem. When she decides to end their acquaintance later, this is the exchange that solidifies her decision:

 

She knocked on the door before entering. James rose to his feet but didn't move toward her or even extend a hand. 

 

'Charlotte told me you visited and sat by my bed. I'm wantin' to offer thanks.'

 

'I'm sure she told other things as well.' James answered.

 

'She did, but thanks is still in order.'

 

He stepped forward and took her hand. 'I have feelings for you, Coral. We can work this out. I've been dreamin' of you and your beauty. You're the girl for me. I know it, and I believe you know it too. Give me a chance. I'll do whatever it takes to win you over.' 

 

Coral drew back her hand and shook her head no. 

 

'It's the job. The men in this place are vile and violent. I've become like them. I can change.'

 

'I'm sure that guardin' criminals ain't easy, but don't be blamin' others for your struggles. Sheriff Robbins in Big Creek is tough as nails, but anger ain't part of his being.'

 

'Forgive me, Coral. It won't happen again. I promise. The Bible says you need to forgive me...'

 

'Don't be using God's word for manipulatin'.' She turned and walked away. 

 

'You forgave Charlie but won't forgive me. That ain't Christian, Coral.' 

 

She didn't answer. She kept walking and didn't look back. Lottie took her hand and, with heads held high, they entered the expansive front door.

 

Following that exchange, it was nice to see the growth in Coral as she begins to understand what a truly healthy, supportive relationship should look like, a realization helped by the growing tenderness between her and Kenneth, the doctor who attended her during her illness. If there are further books planned for this now duology, I'd love to see more of the story between those two!

 

It's interesting, given that this is a Christian Fiction series, that Blessing worked in supernatural themes such as spirit possession / contacting the spirit world via stick fortune divination. While it's not necessarily out of place historically, this story being set in 1920s Appalachia, and the supernatural element is light, I was just surprised to see the topic worked in at all as I don't recall it having much of a presence in the first book.

 

The Christian themes are much more prominent in this sequel than I remember them being in the first story. Again, while it historically makes sense to some extent, the way it was presented here came off overly preachy for my preference and frequently detracted from the overall story. Some of the conversations had an odd flow, almost as if they were crafted JUST to give a platform for biblical references. Unfortunately this gave the conversational flow between several characters an unnatural, forced feel.

 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Bookcrash.com & Capture Books kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-07-18 18:16
Booknote: Appalachian Health and Well-Being
Appalachian Health and Well-Being - Robert L. Ludke,Phillip J. Obermiller,Richard A. Couto

Link to my review of this book. This review is a bit different. Since it is an academic text mainly to be used as resource, I am not rating it like I would other books. From my review:

 

"This note is a reference book review. We currently have this book in our collection at Hutchins Library; I saw it on our new reference books' shelf, and I decided to make this note both to help me better know this resource and to see if it can be helpful for our students here. In this note, I will mainly look at key features of the book, how it is organized, and why it may be useful and how."

 

Click on the link to read the full review and check it out.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-05-05 05:06
Flat Broke with Two Goats
Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia - Jennifer McGaha

This book arrived and I showed it to MT and said "look! our retirement plan arrived!" (referring to the goat part, not the broke part. I hope.)

 

When I first saw this title I was immediately drawn to it because I wanted to hear from people who'd done what we sometimes talk about doing: leaving urbanity behind for a quieter, more sustainable and slower paced life.  Preferably surrounded by a mix of domesticated animals and nonvenomous wildlife.

 

But this book ended up being more complicated than that and my review is going to sound a tad ungenerous because of it.  Ungenerous because the complicated bits are well written, and at times riveting, but not what I was looking for.  Look at that title and cover; that cover and title imply a certain level of quirky adventure and maybe a humorous mishap or two while journeying the learning curve of homesteading.

 

Instead, this is primarily the story of the author and her husband's experience with the Global Financial Crisis and the consequences of living on credit, written by a woman who sounds like she's still very much on the road to emotional recovery.  McGaha's husband - an accountant - didn't pay their personal state or federal income taxes for four years.  By the time she finds out, the IRS and the state have put liens on everything, seized their bank accounts and garnished their wages.  With no choices left, they walked away from their home, and took up residence in an ancient cabin in the North Carolina woods that distant relatives of her husband offered them for a peppercorn rent.  So less quirky and fun than the marketing department would lead you to believe.

 

The first third of the book covers this downward spiral and it is a cautionary tale and almost the cliche for a great many living in the 1990's.  McGaha doesn't pull any punches about her anger at herself and her husband, nor how bad things got between them.  There's also a horrific but ultimately irrelevant chapter about her brief but terrifying first marriage, told as a flashback.  It's gripping stuff but it honestly has no relevance at all to the rest of the book, especially as we never find out what happened to him, or his relationship with their daughter, if any.

 

The remainder of the book focuses on their experiences at the cabin; cleaning it up, trying to cope with the transition from city water and sewer to spring fed water tanks and wood burning boilers.  Their encounters with local wildlife of both the venomous and rodent variety, and their first forays into keeping chickens and goats.  Interspersed throughout are flashbacks to her grandparents and ... I don't know what to call them ... daydreams? about her great-grandparents and their connection to the land in Appalachia.  

 

Again, these 'memoirs' are really well written, but this reader bought a book about being broke and raising goats, not about dreams of the author's Appalachian ancestors.  And while I DID get the stuff about the goats and chickens, I'd have liked more detail; I wanted to know more about the cabin, the chickens, the structures they built; I got a lot about the goats, but the cheese making was brief, as was the soap making.  I can't help but think if there'd been fewer memories, maybe I'd have gotten more of the pertinent details. 

 

Even though I think there are really two books here - the story of their recovery and altered lifestyle, and a collection of stories/memories/dreams about her ancestors - it is still an incredibly eye-opening, informative read.  So much so that I handed it to MT when I finished and told him to read it, but that he should feel free to skip the disjointed bits.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?