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review 2017-11-16 01:31
Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Sweet Tea and Sympathy (A Southern Eclectic Novel Book 1) - Molly Harper

Margot Cary’s life just fell apart. Hoping for a partnership with the elite event planning firm she’s given ten years of her life to, Margot finds herself fired and blackballed after an event for the upper crust of Chicago implodes with dramatic flare. Her only option for help is her estranged birth father’s family back in Lake Sackett, Georgia. Margot’s mom left Lake Sackett and her first husband behind when Margot was three. She remarried and her step-dad adopted Margot when she was four. Margot knows nothing about her biological father’s family.

 

Sweet Tea and Sympathy is everything I hoped for in Ms. Harper’s new Southern Eclectic series. On the “woman’s fiction” side of contemporary romance, the book is first and foremost the coming-of-age tale of Margot. Having lived under the constraints of her mother and step-father for years, Margot doesn’t know how to relate to her southern relatives. Moving to Georgia allows Margot to blossom and grow in ways she never would have expected.

 

The story works because Margot doesn’t show up in Lake Sackett looking down her nose at her southern relatives. She has questions and harbors hurts, but she doesn’t let those prevent her from swallowing her pride and taking up Aunt Tootie’s offer for help. She doesn’t let stereotypes and small town politics keep her from getting to know her family, and realizing she genuinely enjoys being around them. While she’s used to upper-crust, she doesn’t complain about her living quarters or jobs. It all works because deep down, Margot is a beautiful, caring person, with a bit of an edge and a lot of snark. She takes each day as it comes, and although she’s working hard to get out of Sackett, she doesn’t resent the need to be there.

 

Sweet Tea and Sympathy is also a slow burn, sweet romance. She does find a hot widowed dad, which raises some eyebrows when she’s seen in Kyle’s presence. While the lovin’ is not the major focus of the book, the romance is a huge part of who Margot becomes. I love their sweet walks and sexy kisses, but mostly it’s their honest friendship that makes it all work. 

 

In the end, I found myself utterly engrossed in Sweet Tea and Sympathy. The story is a gentle romance, but also Margot’s story of finding herself. I laughed out loud in several places, and certainly was never bored. Ms. Harper created interesting characters that drew me in. The entire time I was reading, I wanted to know more, I wanted to see Margot succeed and find happiness, and in that, I was greatly rewarded.

 

My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by Netgalley

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review 2017-11-02 04:17
A Tangled Mercy
A Tangled Mercy: A Novel - Joy Jordan-Lake

By: Joy Jordan-Lake 

ASIN: B01M7XPCYE

Publisher: Lake Union 

Publication Date: 11/1/2017 

Format: Kindle

My Rating: 5 Stars 

 

A TANGLED MERCY by Joy Jordan-Lake interweaves the painful stories of two different time periods and two different sets of characters. A captivating tale. A place of contrasts. Pain and beauty. A city both vulnerable and resilient. 

A hauntingly beautiful story of dual-timelines— a moving Southern tale: 1822 dark family secrets of slavery, and present-day Charleston, SC. From the Denmark Vesey slave revolt, and those who courageously fought for freedom. 

The strong and courageous characters who stood out to take a stand against slavery to the more recent tragic shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston —of rage, injustice, discrimination, and violence. 

“A time for every season, you know —a time to mourn and a time to dance. Only here in the Low Country, we sometimes do both at the same time.”

Kate Drayton’s mother has passed and as a struggling Harvard grad student in New England, she decides to return to Charleston, SC — the place where her parents met. There are unanswered questions plus she needs to salvage her career in academia using her mom’s research.

Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites after horror and outrage. 

A well-researched meticulous blending of fact and fiction, the author eloquently outlines why this story is so important to her. Her passion shines through each word on the page. It is critical to be tuned into how the “past bleeds through the present at every corner.” 

As the author reiterates, it is her hope that this story of tragedy, brutality, beauty, and courage across two hundred years might be a least a small part of a conversation to have between our races. 

Where not talking is also dangerous. “Make some noise” on behalf of those whose voices aren’t being heard. Promote respectful conversations.

I appreciate the author’s specific notes how she loved American history and the South. I can envision her packing up her eight-month daughter and her adventurous husband and driving to Charleston where she fell in love with the city. There was a story to be told. And back again later with three children and a husband to finish her work. 

Engrossing! It is important to show the historical characters have changed the course of American history and why their message still matters today, particularly in a cultural moment in which people of common goodwill but different racial, ethnic and political backgrounds and perspectives are trying to be heard, and understood while attempting to move forward together. 

Astounding, the author began this journey some twenty years ago; however, rings true today in our complex world of understanding people, their roots, their past, and their hearts. 

 



As a reader, I find these components of fact and fiction make for a powerful and insightful read. The reason I myself find historical fiction so fascinating, you have a foundation of real people, vivid places, and experiences rich in history and character. 

The skill of the author is to be able to put themselves in the minds and hearts of their characters —portray which could have happened or their most intimate thoughts. Feel what they are feeling. 

Joy-Jordan Lake and her words will empower you. You cannot read this tale and not be moved in some way. A story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. (have you read her bio)? Highly impressive. 

If you have grown up or spent time in the Low Country, you may know of its historical architecture, beauty, and charm today. 

However, as depicted in the novel, beneath the façade, there has been a turbulent history. Darkness and ugliness in contrast to the beauty. Even today in our world and cultural climate of today, we see the pain of racial injustice and a world of violence. We cannot read any news feed without devastation. 

As the author mentions her intent is not only to tell a story worth reading (which she does masterfully); but equally and more importantly to honor the memory of those in the nineteenth and twenty-first-century Charleston who have set an example of courage, conviction, and a spirit of love far stronger than hate. They need a voice. 

From outrage, pain, and horror to love, unity, forgiveness, and strength. A poignant and inspiring story of how people come together, even in their darkest hours. Crossing lines of race, income, social class, and religion. Seeking justice.

I loved the author’s reference to a foundation from a portion of the proceeds of the novel to go towards serving the families of victims, administered by Mother Emanuel.

Beyond the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, their lives redemption, freedom, and forgiveness. 

A highly recommended choice for book clubs and further discussions (Reading Group Questions Included). 

For fans of well-researched historical and Southern fiction and readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Charles Martin, Karen White, Lisa Wingate and Susan Meissner. (all favorites of mine). 

My first book by the author, and look forward to reading more (and her backlist of those I missed) from this talented and gifted writer! My Top Books of 2017 and my featured Top 20 Books for Nov. 

JDCMustReadBooks 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/10/04/Tangled-Mercy
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review 2017-10-31 14:28
Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper
Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck (Southern Eclectic Book 1) - Molly Harper

Heading back home to spend the summer before going to law school, Marianne begins to question her life goals and dreams. She’s always feared being stuck in small-town Sackett, Georgia, but now the idea has a little more appeal, as long as she can maintain some distance between herself and her large family. 

 

Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, but when Marianne thought Carl might propose before Marianne headed off to college, she panicked and left him. After four years, the sparks are still there, but can they move forward instead of looking back?

 

Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck is a short novella that kicks off the new Southern Eclectic series by Molly Harper. While not full of Ms. Harper’s usual snark and wit, the story is sweet and charming. However, I’m a bit curious as to its place in the series. I say this because there is a HUGE spoiler in the beginning of the book: a family tree which shows Marianne and Carl married with kids, as well as the death a major character who is still alive in this story. I really wish the family tree had been left out of the novella, and added once the series had progressed to match what the graphic displays.

 

Other than that little issue, Carl and Marianne share a sweet romance. The novella sets the stage for the upcoming series by developing the basic framework of the world. Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck was entertaining and engrossing enough that it got me interested and invested in the characters, and I want to know more about the McCready family. 

 

My Rating: B/B- Liked It, but I had a small issue

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

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review 2017-10-30 13:00
Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey

Blackwater: The Complete Saga on audio is absolutely phenomenal! Phenomenal! That's right, it's so good, it deserves two PHENOMENALS. 

 

First-about the book itself. Michael McDowell was a force to be reckoned with as far as writing about family dynamics. If you've read The Elementals, Gilded Needles, or Cold Moon over Babylon, (and if you haven't you SHOULD), you already know that McDowell writes about families like no one else. Now imagine those books expanded to cover several generations of one family, in this case The Caskeys, and you might have an inkling of how great a work of literature, (that's right, I'm calling it literature), Blackwater really is. 

 

Starting with a huge flood in Perdido, Alabama and a mysterious woman found in a partially flooded hotel and ending with another flood in the same town, there is a symmetry here not often found in horror fiction. Perhaps it's because Blackwater isn't really a horror novel, (or series of novels, as it was originally released back in the 80's), at all. I would describe it more as a Southern Gothic soap opera or family saga, with supernatural and horrific elements.

 

One of the things I adore about McDowell, and there are many of them, (click here for my essay on McDowell's work), is how he treats horrifying supernatural events as if they were no big deal. Somehow, the way he does that makes the event even more horrifying, if that makes any sense. 

 

Of course, as I mentioned above, McDowell writes family dynamics like no one else and this book proves it. Throughout generations even, McDowell is at the top of his game writing about this family with its rich men and domineering women. Being from Alabama himself, the authenticity of the family's bearing and standing in their community of Perdido is never in doubt. His insights into human behavior are unmatched and beautifully written-without fail. Here's a quote from the first book of this novel,The Flood, (which takes place in the early 1920's):

 

That was the great misconception about men: because they dealt with money, because they could hire someone on and later fire him, because they alone filled state assemblies and were elected congressional representatives, everyone thought they had power. Yet all the hiring and firing, the land deals and the lumber contracts, the complicated process for putting through a constitutional amendment-these were only bluster. They were blinds to disguise the fact of men's real powerlessness in life. Men controlled the legislatures, but when it came down to it, they didn't control themselves. Men had failed to study their own minds sufficiently, and because of this failure they were at the mercy of fleeting passions; men, much more than women, were moved by petty jealousies and the desire for petty revenges. Because they enjoyed their enormous but superficial power, men had never been forced to know themselves the way that women, in their adversity and superficial subservience, had been forced to learn about the workings of their brains and their emotions.

 

 

I could go on and on about McDowell, as many of you already know, but now I'd like to address the narration of this story by Alabama native Matt Godfrey. 

 

I just don't have the words to describe how McDowell's words, combined with Godfrey's narration, made me feel. Together, they made a great work even greater. Godfrey's voicing was so true to the source material it made the Caskey voices come alive. ALIVE, I say! I laughed out loud many times, and I cried a few times too.

 

I most especially adored his voicing of James and of Oscar. Don't get me wrong, I loved these characters back when I first read the books a few years ago; but with Matt's voice attached to them, they became larger than life. It was easy for me to recognize who was talking just by the inflections and changes of tone. I've never listened to an audio book where it was easier for me to identify who was who, just by how the narrator voiced them. I've listened to a lot of audios over the last few years, and that's never happened to me-at least not in a book with as many characters as Blackwater. That's why I say now, with no reservations, that this is the BEST audiobook I've ever read. PERIOD.

 

I hope that I've convinced you to give this audio a try by giving it my HIGHEST recommendation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it if you do give it a go. 

 

You can get your copy here: Blackwater: The Complete Saga

 

*I received this audiobook free, from the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* **Further, I consider Matt Godfrey a friend, even thought we've never met, but this review IS my honest opinion.**

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review 2017-10-18 17:54
Before We Were Yours
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

By: Lisa Wingate

ISBN: 9780425284681

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 6/6/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating:  5 Stars +++

 

Master storyteller, Lisa Wingate returns following her heartwarming Carolina Series The Sea Keeper's Daughters with her best yet, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS Top Books of 2017— A powerful story within a story inspired by one of American’s most horrific real-life adoption scandals. (stunning front cover)!

A haunting, beautifully written and emotional story of family, sisters, human connections and the strong bonds of love. From good versus evil, deeply-buried secrets, and injustice, to triumph in the face of adversity.

With two storylines, two families generations apart— the bridge between past and present. Before We Were Yoursalternates between the historical story of the Foss Children and the modern-day story of Avery Stafford.

Present day: We meet Avery Stafford. 30 years-old, graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and works for US attorney’s office. A successful career as a federal prosecutor, a fiance’ and an upcoming wedding. 

She returns home to South Carolina to help her father, a high-profile politician. He is up for re-election and has some health problems (cancer) and undergoing chemo. Of course, he wants Avery to step into his shoes with a political career.

Avery’s grandmother, Judy is a ghost of her former self. They are keeping it from the media due to the fact they have moved her to an upscale luxury facility. They are currently dealing with a scandal of wrongful death and abuse cases involving eldercare, so they do not want people pointing fingers. Of course, the decision to move to her this facility was not political—her doctor recommended. 

They are heartsick about her cruel descent into dementia. Before they moved her to the nursing home, she escaped her caretaker and staff and was found wandering at a business complex near a mall where she formerly shopped. Ironically, since she cannot even remember their names. 

While touring on the nursing homes (not as luxurious as Judy's), Avery encounters a woman. She calls Avery, Fern. The nurse called the woman, May Crandall. 

 




Through the mind and voice of May, she has triggers from the past. She thinks of Queenie her mother and Camellia. Thinking back to the Mississippi riverbank to Memphis. The night there was no returning. 

Past: Memphis 1939. A twelve-year-old girl Rill. She lives on a riverboat and helps take care of her four young siblings. Life is difficult. However, there are complications during the birth at the hospital and the children are snatched, while Rill was in charge. 

They are thrown into an orphanage. They are told they will be returned to their parents. Rill must keep her siblings together. However, they find evil and something more sinister than they could ever imagine. 

“I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.” 

From past to present, Avery is haunted by this woman in the nursing home. Is there a connection? She had on her grandmother’s bracelet. Her curiosity has been piqued by her sad story. Does this woman May, know her grandmother Judy? 

There is no way Avery can let this drop. Secrets from the past. She goes back to her grandmother’s letters and notes. 

Who is Trent Turner in Edisto? He does not seem helpful. What is he hiding? 

Amidst the suspense and intensity while Avery tries desperately to piece together the mystery of her family’s past, we hear the heartbreaking story of sisters and children taken against their will. Ripped from their biological parents. 

A true to life story of Georgia Tann, the director of a Memphis-based adoption organization which basically kidnapped and sold children to wealthy families for many years. Thousands of birth families would never know what became of their children.

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever-present as a pulse.” 

If you have read any of Lisa Wingate’s stories, you know she writes of family, love, and deep connections. A master storyteller, her books are thought-provoking, inspiring, emotional, and deeply moving. Her passion shines through as she shares her stories from the heart to her readers.

Normally when reading a dual time timeline story, I find the historical one the most intriguing. However, in this case, both stories are equally as compelling, since the present-day story still revolves around its own past family history. 

As in sex and child trafficking today, the abuse and devastation continue to destroy lives and futures of innocent children. The monsters target the poor, single mothers, or those on welfare. In this haunting yet true story of babies and children being kidnapped and abused, molested, and mistreated while waiting for the big payday. Some were stolen from birth and siblings and parent’s lives forever to be ripped apart. 

Well-researched, the author offers details as to the number of children who vanished under Georgia Tann’s management range as high as five hundred. Thousands more disappeared into adoptions for profit in which names, birth dates, and birth records were altered to prevent biological families from finding their children. This went on from the 1920s-1950s and was not fully brought to justice until 1996.

From the author: “If there is one overarching lesson to be learned from the Foss children and from the true-life story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, it is that babies and children, no matter what corner of the world they hail from, are not commodities, or objects, or blank slates, as Georgia Tann so often represented her wards; they are human beings with histories and needs, and hopes, and dreams of their own.”

Lisa Wingate is at the top of her game. Having read all 8 total works in the Carolina Heirlooms’ series, have been an avid fan of the author’s writing. 

However, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, really showcases her strength to blend both historical with modern-day stories in a powerful way to capture the heart and most intimate feelings of her characters and the dual timelines. Resilience and the power of love. 

“The heart never forgets where we belong.”

I had the opportunity of reading this book well before its publication date in June; however, I was dealing with my dad’s illness in North Carolina, his death, funeral, and executor of his estate. Playing catch up with reviews/postings I missed this summer. A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.

I enjoyed this book so much, purchased the audiobook for my personal library and listened again this past week. Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber are ideal narrators and in sync with Lisa Wingate’s poignant story. 

“Do we carry the guilt from the sins of past generations? If so, can we bear the weight of that burden? Trent” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours

Highly recommend! If you can only read one book this year, this would be the one. Wingate fully understands the power of story. If this does not win Historic Fiction of the Year, I will be shocked. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions. 

If you have not viewed the The Book Club Kit, by Random House— highly recommend, to enhance your reading experience. Well done!

For fans of Charles Martin, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah, Sally Hepworth, Nicholas Sparks and Diane Chamberlain. 

As the author mentions in an interview, “In the end, both the modern-day and historical characters in Before We Were Yours are willing to risk everything else for one all-important thing—a place to be authentic and people to be authentic with. That’s what I love most about the book.”

Your fans agree. Cannot wait to see what’s next from this talented author. No wonder it still ranks today as #7 Most Read book on Amazon. Totally captivating!

“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/12/01/Before-We-Were-Yours
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