Summer Reading

Hopefully we’ve all got a little extra time during these hot summer days to sit a spell under the breeze of a nice fan, sip on a tall glass of sweet tea, and enjoy a little reading.  I LOVE to read.  As I’ve mentioned to y’all before though, I can be a little obsessive about it.  Once I start a good book I CAN. NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN.  I’ve been known to sit in my pajamas for two days on the sofa, not speaking to anyone…the family starved, animals bereft, personal hygiene gone by the wayside.  If it’s a real page turner I’ve just got see what happens next.  Yes, I know you CAN physically put them down and pick them up later to begin right where you left off.  But I am just not able do it.  It’s a sickness, I know.  I’ve got a few new releases loaded onto my handy dandy, virtually antique, Kindle for my summer hit list; but I’d thought I’d share some books that I’ve enjoyed in the not too distant past.  I hope you’ll like them.

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First up Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin:

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Edgar Award-winning author Tom Franklin returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32″ Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

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While this story is a bit on the predictable side it is still very enjoyable.  I especially liked the intertwining of the characters’ personal histories.  No matter what…time, distance, even social issues, Silas and Larry could not be kept apart.


Next up On Folly Beach by Karen White:


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Folly Beach, South Carolina, has survived despite hurricanes and war. But it’s the personal battles of Folly Beach’s residents that have left the most scars, and why a young widow has been beckoned there to heal her own…

To most people, Folly Beach is simply the last barrier island before reaching the great Atlantic. To some, it’s a sanctuary for lost souls, which is why Emmy Hamilton’s mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly’s Finds, hoping it will distract Emmy from the loss of her husband.

Emmy is at first resistant. So much has already changed. But after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly’s Finds, she decides to take the plunge. But the seller insists on one condition: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner’s difficult sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard.

For the most part Emmy ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers about the letters, the more she understands Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during WWII are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance…

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This one is a super fluffy read, but I really liked it.  Having spent a lot of time in the South Carolina low-country and a fair amount of time at Folly Beach it was especially nice to be able to really fill in my imagination with actual images of the area to correspond to the author’s descriptions.  On top of that this story had some espionage AND a few squishy interconnected love stories too.


My third suggestion to add to your reading list is The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.


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The legend of las mariposas — the beautiful monarch butterflies that every year fly more than two thousand miles on fragile wings to return to their winter home in Mexico — is Luz Avila’s birthright. She learned of their ways and their mystical powers from the grandmother who was the only family she ever knew. Now it is her turn, like the butterflies, to make that long, perilous journey. In order to honor a promise to her beloved abuela, Luz must return her grandmother’s ashes to her ancestral village in the mountains of Mexico. But while this ofrenda, a tradition so old its origins are lost in the mists of time, will mean leaving behind a man who loves Luz deeply, the journey promises to bring deep spiritual meaning to the life of a woman who cannot find her way into the future until she comes to terms with the past. As Luz slowly makes her way south from blustery Milwaukee in a VW Bug so ancient it has no business on the highway, a series of seemingly random encounters touches her life: a desperate mother-to-be, even younger than her, fleeing an abusive lover. An anywhere-the-wind-blows free spirit. A lonely career woman who is determined to live, really live, for the first time. It is in San Antonio, however, that a truly startling revelation awaits Luz: a reunion with a shadowy figure from her childhood. Together, they cross the border into Mexico, but they also must somehow cross the border that separates past from present, bitterness from love, and truth from lies. They will honor the memory of another beloved woman by standing in the Sacred Circle to witness the spectacular, glittering river of orange monarchs descend from the sky to return home. If they can share in this age-old ritual, perhaps they will be able to find their way back to love, and take their place in the enduring cycle of life.

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As usual, Monroe does not disappoint with this moving story.  It’s a tale of friendship, unlikely connections, and self discovery.  I think you’ll really enjoy this one.


Finally, a little bit of REAL reading to balance out all of the frou-frou – Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice.


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Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman – and the first black woman ever — to serve as Secretary of State.

But until she was 25 she never learned to swim.

Not because she wouldn’t have loved to, but because when she was a little girl in Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor decided he’d rather shut down the city’s pools than give black citizens access.

Throughout the 1950′s, Birmingham’s black middle class largely succeeded in insulating their children from the most corrosive effects of racism, providing multiple support systems to ensure the next generation would live better than the last.  But by 1963, when Rice was applying herself to her fourth grader’s lessons, the situation had grown intolerable.  Birmingham was an environment where blacks were expected to keep their head down and do what they were told — or face violent consequences. That spring two bombs exploded in Rice’s neighborhood amid a series of chilling Klu Klux Klan attacks.  Months later, four young girls lost their lives in a particularly vicious bombing.

So how was Rice able to achieve what she ultimately did?

Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics.  Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts.  From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community.  Her parents’ fierce unwillingness to set limits propelled her to the venerable halls of Stanford University, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the university’s second-in-command.  An expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, she played a leading role in U.S. policy as the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated.  Less than a decade later, at the apex of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, she received the exciting news – just shortly before her father’s death – that she would go on to the White House as the first female National Security Advisor.

As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman — trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference.

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No matter what your political affiliations are I think you’ll get as absorbed into this biography as I did.  What an admirable woman, not only because of where she ended up but that she was able to get there in spite of prejudicial circumstances AND she did it with aplomb and more importantly grace.  I love her!


So there you have it – a few page turners for your beach bag.

Some selections I have lined up for the next few weeks are:

a re-read of one of my childhood favorites The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


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Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


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Sparkly Green Earrings – Catching the Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle


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and A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson


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So what do you think of my choices?  Yay or nay?  I can hardly wait to get started.  :)


Are there any goodies you have picked out?  I’d love to hear about them.


**I have received no compensation for specific products or retailers mentioned in this post.