Jun 23, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Summer Breezes In

Summer has arrived...already...and brought with it my desire to read some breezy summer novels. Admittedly, I don't read a lot of them, but I am in the mood for light and fun right now. Speaking of which, I just finished SPRING FEVER by Mary Kay Andrews last week and I had so much fun with it that I've continued on with that theme and have moved on to Claire Cook. Believe it or not, I've never read any of her books before, but I had BEST STAGED PLANS on my Kindle and felt it was high time I see what all her fans are raving about. I'm only in the beginning chapters  but already she's had me chuckling out loud. I think it's going to be a fun time. I'm also planning to read her newly released TIME FLIES, along with Mary Kay Andrews' new book LADIES NIGHT.  Also on my list is Sarah Addison Allen's THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON, that I've had on my coffee table forEVER! I've refuse to add it to the shelves in my book room where it will be lost to me!

Its hard to believe the year is already half over. I've read some really great review books the first part of the year and though I still have some more scheduled, I'm planning to continue on with more lighter beachy reads, at least throughout the rest of summer.

I've really enjoyed getting away from the television lately and reading more than I usually do. I'll admit that I probably watch too much TV, especially in the fall and winter, but, honestly, I like to turn off the set and go stretch out on the chaise or on the bed and lose myself in a book. The evenings don't seem to go as fast when I'm reading and I like that. The days whip by fast enough as it is, right?

I've never really noticed my reading habits changing with the seasons like I have this year. I've even got a holiday review book scheduled for later this year! What's happening to me?! Regardless, I'm really looking forward to my summer reading list. What's on your reading list for the summer?

As for today, I'm sticking with Claire Cook. I feel like the only person on Earth who hasn't read any of her books. We've got more thunderstorms moving in later today and that will make for some great reading time. I hope your Sunday plans include some great books too. Happy summer everyone!

Jun 20, 2013

Review: Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews (Kindle Edition)

Mary Kay Andrews is a favorite author of mine that I have enjoyed reading for many years.  I love her escapist novels for their Southern charm, clever wit and entertaining characters and stories, so I was surprised that I'd fallen behind and somehow let SPRING FEVER slip through my radar! I used to stalk her blog and lie in wait for her next release and somehow I got off track. With her new book, LADIES NIGHT, released on May 28th, I decided to get busy and read SPRING FEVER first.

About the Book

In the small town of Pascoe, North Carolina, Annajane Hudgens works at the soda-pop company that pretty much keeps the town afloat, and happens to be the family business of her best friend, Pokey and her ex-husband, Mason Bayless.  Though Mason and Annajane have been divorced for five years, they still work together and have a civil relationship with each other. But when Mason is set to marry his new girlfriend, Annajane is surprised by her sudden feelings of regret over her divorce. When an emergency takes place during the wedding that turns the whole event upside down, Annajane is thrown smack into Mason's life again,  much to the dismay of Celia, Mason's bride-to-be.

As Annajane prepares to wrap things up at Quixie, the beloved family business, and move to Atlanta to be with her fiance, she overhears a suspicious phone conversation of Celia's. Annajane doesn't trust Celia and her so-called business savvy as far as she can throw her, so she feels torn between starting her new life with Shane or helping her ex-husband save the struggling company that has been in his family for generations.

My Thoughts:

I could tell right away that SPRING FEVER was going to be exactly what I was looking for. Though I've read all of her books, excluding her very latest LADIES NIGHT, I haven't felt the immediate connection to the main characters  since Weezie and Bebe, who were the stars of her earliest books, SAVANNAH BLUES and SAVANNAH BREEZE. Those characters will always be my favorites, but Annajane and Pokey are wonderful in their own rite. In fact, all of the characters in this book were really good and likable. Mary Kay Andrews has a knack for creating great characters with goodness and quirkiness that makes them unforgettable. Even Celia, in all her deviousness, was a great character that I just wanted to get blown out of the water!

A big plus for this novel was the multi-layered plot that gave more depth to the story.  Aside from the obvious relationship angle between Annajane and her ex-husband, Mason, was the battle for controlling interest of Quixie, the struggling family owned soft drink company. I loved the business aspect of the story because it brought all of these characters together for better or worse.   In the first few chapters, the history of both the characters and the business were revealed by flashbacks seen through Annajane's perspective. I thought that was a great way to introduce the complicated dynamics of these people. Once all that was revealed, the story was then told in the present tense. It worked beautifully and gave the reader a full understanding of the past.

I feel this book brought Mary Kay back to the quality of her earlier books that I loved so much, like the aforementioned SAVANNAH BLUES, along with LITTLE BITTY LIES and HISSY FIT.  I was totally surprised when a big twist was revealed near the end of this book that I wasn't expecting.  Though I've enjoyed reading her other recent books, DEEP DISH and SUMMER RENTAL, for me, this one stands out as one of her best. It has rejuvenated me and has made me very anxious to read LADIES NIGHT.

If you are looking for great summer reading, you should definitely pick up a Mary Kay Andrews book. SPRING FEVER is a terrific choice and I promise you'll catch the fever.

SPRING FEVER (Kindle Edition)
Author: Mary Kay Andrews (@mkayandrews)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: June 5, 2012
Length: 416 pp
Source: Purchased
Recommend? Yes! This is a terrific summer read!

Jun 19, 2013

Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

There's been a lot of talk about this last installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series that ends with this thirteenth edition.  Even before the DEAD EVER AFTER was released here in the US, it had already attracted a lot of negative criticism by loyal fans of the Southern Vampire Series that Charlaine Harris is so well known for.  And as a fan myself, I was anxious to find out how Sookie's story would end.

I don't normally do this, but this review DOES include some details that could be viewed as spoilers because I feel it's difficult to talk about the ending of the series without certain comments.

When we last left Sookie, she had been in a battle with her relatives from the Fae world and discovered that not all of them were her allies. She had been in possession of the coveted cluviel dor, the magic 'artifact' left to her by her late grandmother, that could grant one wish to the beholder, changing their life forever. The shock came at the end of the twelfth book when, in desperation, used it to save Sam, her friend and business partner, instead of using it to keep Eric, her vampire boyfriend, from having to marry the Queen of Oklahoma and break all ties with Sookie, whom he claimed to love.

This last book takes up right where it had left off and Sookie, Sam and Eric are still dealing with the consequences of Sookie's choice and what it all means for their futures. Sookie's life is complicated even further when she is arrested for murdering one of her former friends. One of Sookie's own scarves was found wrapped around the victim's neck. She is pleased and humbled to see how many of her friends showed up for her arraignment in support of her, but her best friend Sam, is a no show and he's going out of his to avoid her. To make matters worse, someone is trying to kill Sookie and they don't care who gets in their way.

My Thoughts:

Though I found the mystery of who framed Sookie and who was trying to kill her interesting, the overall feeling I had throughout the book was that something was lacking. That something was the vampire presence in the story. I've read a lot of reviews that said 'the book ended the only way it could have', but that doesn't really convince me that it was necessary that Eric and Bill were basically non-existent in this book. Eric made  two very brief appearances and Bill was basically a passerby. I'm not saying I didn't like the book, I just feel that two such strong and ever-present characters in all of the other books was sorely missed by this reader.

On Goodreads, I've rated this book with 3 stars, which by first glance doesn't look all that good, but it actually means 'I liked it'. And I did. I don't think Charlaine Harris deserves the bashing she's gotten from many of her reviewers, (especially on Amazon),  because I can appreciate that she admittedly stated she had told every story she felt Sookie had to tell and didn't want the series to continue and possibly suffer until nobody cared anymore. Sometimes you have to know when to quit and I think she did the right thing. That said, I am going to miss Sookie and all of her cohorts. They gave me many hours of entertainment and actually introduced me to the entire vampire genre that I had completely ignored previously.

I am not a fan of TrueBlood and I do not watch the show. I am content with the ending Ms. Harris came up with for the book series and I commend her for making the difficult decision to end a beloved series, even though the fans were sure to be upset with her. That takes guts and Charlaine Harris has guts.

DEAD EVER AFTER (Sookie Stackhouse #13) 
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace/Penguin Publishing
Published: May 7, 2013
Length: 353 pp
Source: Purchased

Jun 3, 2013

Review: Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

I'll admit that I was ridiculously late in reading Beth's first book, SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT, but once I read, and fell in love with it, I vowed never to put off reading another of Beth Hoffman's books. So imagine how happy I was to be one of the lucky ones to receive an advance copy of LOOKING FOR ME. It was the highlight of my spring!

About the Book:
(No Spoilers Included)

LOOKING FOR ME is the story of a Kentucky family, told by Teddi Overman, the oldest daughter of two hardworking parents and sister to her younger brother, Josh. Teddi Overman knew what she wanted to do with her life as a young girl when she discovered her love of old furniture. She'd find old pieces from just about anywhere, take them home, fix them up and sell them on the side of the road. Much to her mother's dismay, Teddi packed up and moved to Charleston, South Carolina right after high school graduation to work at an antique shop where both her passion and talent grew larger and larger.

Through the years Teddi builds a good life for herself in Charleston and is quite successful but there is a sadness deep within Teddi that never goes away and that same sadness has taken hold of her parents as well. That sadness is the loss of Josh, her younger brother, who disappeared when he was seventeen, never to be heard from again. Though he is presumed dead, Teddi has a hard time accepting it and she can't help feel that her mother blames her for his disappearance. It has caused a deep sore spot between the two.  Teddi feels that if she could just get her mother to talk to her, it might make things better, but it's hard for her to even bring up Josh's name to her mother.

My Thoughts:

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I fell in love with this book after reading the first chapter. Even the first page! What was glaringly obvious to me was how beautiful the writing was. Beth Hoffman swept me away with her lovely prose and I knew right away I was in for a real treat. When I read this book, I lost myself in it, completely tuning out everything that was going on around me.

Everything about this book was spot on, in my opinion. The storyline, the characters, and also the locations - both the family farm in Kentucky and Teddi's new hometown of Charleston only made this story richer. I know I'm gushing, but I can't help it. This is the type of book that I absolutely love. Learning about Josh and his love of wildlife, especially the birds, really touched me and left me with lumps in my throat. It was just a lovely, endearing book that I enjoyed immensely.  Not since Jayne Pupek's amazing TOMATO GIRL have I been so moved by a book. LOOKING FOR ME ranks right up there. This is the highest quality of Southern Fiction.  It was obvious to me that this story came from a deep place and I thought it was amazing. If you are in a book club, you definitely want to add this to your selections list! I can hardly wait to see what Ms. Beth Hoffman will give us in her next book. I'd like to thank Beth for providing me with my advanced copy. I will treasure it always!

Author: Beth Hoffman
Publisher: Pamela Dorman books
Published: May 28, 2013
Length: 368 pp
Source: Author provided review copy
Recommend? ABSOLUTELY!!!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and it's where we share the books we've read, reviewed and the books we plan to read in the coming week.


I finished a couple of books last week, both of which I had been very anxious to read. The first book is DEAD EVER AFTER, the controversial final novel from the Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris. The other book I finished was the highly anticipated new novel from Beth Hoffman, LOOKING FOR ME. I'll be posting reviews for both these books this week. 



Somehow I've managed to get my nose into three books this week, which I rarely do. I typically try to stick with two at a time, but I couldn't help myself! Here's what I'm reading this week:
  • THE FIREBIRD by Susanna Kearsley. This book is being released tomorrow!
  • WHILE WE WERE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY by Wendy Wax, a new-to-me author!
  • SPRING FEVER by Mary Kay Andrews, one of my all-time favorite escapist writers! I picked this one up on a whim because I'd been missing her and wanted something fun to read!

I almost forgot, I'm also listening to a couple audios as well. 
I'm excited about the books I've listed and I hope you'll come back and check my upcoming reviews! Have a wonderful week in books!