Sep 27, 2012

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

There should be a warning label on this book. It should read: 'the reader will develop deep feelings of protection and love' for the delightful Cecelia Rose Honeycutt, the young protagonist in this wonderfully written story'. Two of my favorite things in books are stories of strong Southern women and stories told from a child's perspective. In SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman, I got that and so much more.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee hasn't had the normal childhood a kid her age in the 1960's should have. She lives an isolated life without the typical childhood friendships, games and sleepovers. Living in a small Ohio town with her frequently absent father and a mother who seems to forget she's the mother, CeeCee has had to grow up pretty quickly. When not in school, she spends most of her time looking after her mother, Camille, a former southern beauty queen who suffers from strange, and sometimes bizarre behavior, that commonly wasn't talked about.  There is one person in her life that CeeCee is close to and that is Mrs. Odell, the elderly widow who has lived next door ever since CeeCee was a baby. They have developed a close bond and CeeCee loves her like a grandmother.

After Camille unexpectedly dies, CeeCee is surprised when her father makes the decision for her to go live with her great aunt on her mother's side in Savannah, Georgia. Although this is the place her mother used to dream of going back to one day, CeeCee is devastated by this decision.  This is upsetting to CeeCee for many reasons, including the rejection she is feeling from her father, not to mention she's never been anywhere outside of their little town and more importantly, she is reluctant to leave Mrs. Odell, her only friend.

CeeCee puts on a brave face and makes the move to Savannah with her Great Aunt Tootie, who has promised her a summer she won't forget. Right away CeeCee sees how different life is in a Southern town and especially in Aunt Tootie's grand historic house with its beautiful gardens and lovely, spacious rooms that are swimming in the Georgia sunlight.

As CeeCee settles into life in Savannah she meets the women in Aunt Tootie's circle of friends, but CeeCee has never met women like these. Strong, independent women that leave their mark on the world and have such grace about them...well, most of them anyway. But the woman who has the most impact on CeeCee is Oletta, Aunt Tootie's maid for many years. 

Over the course of the summer, CeeCee experiences life as she has never known it bringing with it fun, adventure, and even fear but most of all, self discovery.  With the help of these strong Southern women, CeeCee begins to realize that her mother's destiny isn't necessarily her own. She just has to be strong enough to choose her own path and follow her own dreams. 

My Thoughts:

Let me first start off by saying I can't believe it took me so long to read this lovely book. I remember when it first came out and the blogs were going crazy over it.  I put it on my TBR list and now, here we are. The only thing I can say is, the bloggers were right! I fell in love with CeeCee and my heart ached for the way her mother's illness affected her.

The characters in this book are strong and likable and they each play important roles in CeeCee's life in showing CeeCee how different we all can be without it being a bad thing. I especially liked the relationship CeeCee had with Mrs. Odell, her neighbor in her old neighborhood in Ohio. Personally, I had an instant connection to that relationship because as a girl of 14 my parents moved me from a small Ohio town to Florida while my older sister stayed behind to graduate. I found myself feeling alone for the first time, not knowing anyone and feeling very isolated until I met our elderly neighbor, Virginia. We spent many afternoons together sitting on her porch swing, sharing stories. She became an important person in my life just as Mrs. Odell became important to CeeCee. Another relationship I really enjoyed was the friendship that formed between CeeCee and Oletta. Cee Cee learned many things from her much older friend like what life was like in the South when you are black. I loved the protectiveness CeeCee felt over Oletta and I think CeeCee brought out a softness in Oletta that had been missing since her only child had died.

I loved everything about this book and obviously it ranks up there with my all-time favorites.  Reading this book was one of the highlights of my summer, re-instilling in me that the Southern Fiction genre is the heart and soul of the literary world. It's books like Hoffman's SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT that are the proof.

Author: Beth Hoffman
Publisher: Penguin
Published: October 2010
Pages: 320 pp
Rating: 5 Wonderful Stars out of 5

Sep 26, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Wisdom of Hair

It has been entirely too long since I've participated in "Waiting On" Wednesday but I'm so happy to be here today sharing the novel I've run across in my bookish travels. The book is THE WISDOM OF HAIR by Kim Boykin and it's scheduled release date is March 5, 2013. It is Southern Women's Fiction and this is Ms. Boykin's debut novel.

Here is a little about the book taken from -

"The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy's funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life."
In 1983, on her nineteenth birthday, Zora Adams finally says goodbye to her alcoholic mother and their tiny town in the mountains of South Carolina. Living with a woman who dresses like Judy Garland and brings home a different man each night is not a pretty existence, and Zora is ready for life to be beautiful.
With the help of a beloved teacher, she moves to a coastal town and enrolls in the Davenport School of Beauty. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Cathcart, she learns the art of fixing hair, and becomes fast friends with the lively Sara Jane Farquhar, a natural hair stylist. She also falls hard for handsome young widower Winston Sawyer, who is drowning his grief in bourbon. She couldn't save Mama, but maybe she can save him.
As Zora practices finger waves, updos, and spit curls, she also comes to learn that few things are permanent in this life--except real love, lasting friendship, and, ultimately... forgiveness.

As a lover of all things Southern, I love reading about strong Southern women so it is easy to understand why I am so anxious for this release.  I can't wait to share it. For more information on Kim, visit her web page at

To discover more yet-to-be-released books, be sure to visit Breaking the Spine for other "Waiting On" Wednesday blog posts every Wednesday.

Book Info:
Genre: Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: March 5, 2013
Length: 304 pp
ISBN-10:  0425261050
ISBN-13:  0425261057

Sep 13, 2012

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn's latest book has received a lot of attention since it's release earlier this year and I was very eager to read it as well. I actually went to the bookstore and bought the hard copy edition. Many books I read these days are usually on my Kindle but I wanted to have the complete experience with this book. Having never read any of Ms. Flynn's previous books, I didn't know what to expect and that only added to my excitement. It killed me to have to wait a few weeks to crack it open because I had other books I had committed to and needed to finish. Finally, it was GONE GIRL's turn!

This riveting story of a wife disappearing on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband being considered a suspect with all of his strange behavior, has all of the elements of a great suspense novel. Right off the bat, I noticed the unique way in which Flynn told this disturbing story. She used two sources to tell the story that alternated between each other. The first chapter started out with the husband, Nick Dunne,  talking about the day of his wife, Amy's disappearance. Chapter two was told through Amy's journal that she had been keeping for what appeared to be a long period of time. Her journal gave insight to how the two met and ultimately were married. The chapters alternated in that manner throughout the book.

Because its hard to give a synopsis of GONE GIRL without giving key points away, I'm not going to do that here. I'm simply going to speak about what I liked or disliked about the book, in vague terms so as not to ruin it for those who have yet to read it.

Right from the start I felt a distrust of Nick Dunne. His behavior alone gave the impression that he definitely was hiding something. And on the other hand, I really liked Amy. From her journal she seemed like an intelligent, likeable young woman who, although led a somewhat sheltered and charmed life, didn't flaunt it or act better than other people.

The book is broken into three parts that defined the changes in the storyline. In Part 1, aptly named Boy Loses Girl, it was pretty much your basic story of a wife gone missing and the husband, of course, being the person that is investigated the most. But that is where the common elements end. When I reached Part Two, it became something very different and my curiosity was instantly piqued. So I must say that in the beginning, when people asked me how I liked the book, I said, 'It's good', without alot of conviction.  but as I went further, it definitely got better and better and more twisted. I was relieved about that because I really wanted to love this book and live up to the hype it was receiving.

Overall, I was very happy with the book and glad I chose to buy it right after it came out and add it to my library.  I thought it was an original idea and I became quickly connected to the characters, even though there were one or two I didn't like. I'm not one hundred percent sure I liked the ending though. It was different than I expected but left me saying, 'Wow...'. And probably, that is exactly what Gillian Flynn wanted. If that is the case, she did a masterful job.

Generally speaking, if I've read a book that I really liked and it later becomes a movie, I am usually disappointed in the film version. But with Reese Witherspoon slated to play Amy Elliot Dunne, I will be very interested to see the movie when it comes out. I don't yet know who is playing Nick Dunne but casting is going to be very important in order to make it work. I have no doubt the book will be better, however.

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crown
Published: June 2012
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Sep 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Soup Season is Coming!

I realize that for many people, Fall weather is still a dream, but we are in the last stages of warmer weather and I, for one, am really looking forward to all the wonderful recipes of Fall. So I just couldn't resist sharing my new recipe for a hearty soup I developed earlier this week. I love a nice hearty soup, especially one that I can put into the crockpot, forget about it and this recipe is perfect for that as well!

I call this my Hearty Potato, Bean and Kielbasa Soup.  Kielbasa has always been a staple in my family and we've prepared it just about every way you can imagine. But I especially like it in soups. It has such great flavor and the longer the soup sits, the better it gets. First I'll show the stove-top method for this deliciously flavored soup. It only takes about 40 minutes to make, which is another reason I love it.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 nice sized carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, mined
32 oz. chicken broth (or half chicken/half beef)
2 large russet potatoes, cubed
1 can cannelloni beans, undrained
1 pd Kielbasa, sliced and halved (if you like smaller pieces, quarter the slices)
1 can cream soup (celery, chicken or mushroom)
8 oz.(or 1 soup can full)  whole milk
white mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large soup pot, saute carrot, celery, onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. About 5-6 minutes. Add garlic last so it doesn't scorch and get bitter-tasting. You'll also want to season these with a pinch of salt and pepper so the flavor is layered throughout. Then add cubed potatoes and stir around for just a minute, then add broth and bring to a nice simmer. Add basil, oregano and bay leaf, or whatever combinations of seasonings you prefer. Stir and cover simmering until potatoes are just tender. Add sliced kielbasa and beans. Continue simmering for several minutes, then add cream soup and milk. Continue to simmer while soup begins to thicken a bit. If you like a thicker soup, you can add a milk/flour thickening to get your desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through - about 5 minutes. If you are adding mushrooms, do so now. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving. This soup is delicious served with slices of crusty bread.

If using a crockpot, simply put all ingredients and seasonings in crockpot, adding liquids last. Give it a nice stir to combine and cook on low for 8 hours or until vegetables and beans are soft.

One great thing about this recipe is that the longer it sits, the more flavor the kielbasa brings to the soup.  Another thing I love is that you can do so many variations of this recipe depending on what you have in your pantry. If you don't like the beans, omit them and add two more potatoes. Or add a can of whole kernel corn to make it more like a chowder and add some sweetness to the dish. You could even add a pinch or two of Cayenne pepper for a spicy soup.

When I made the soup earlier this week, it made great leftovers and reheated perfectly. It kept its consistency - not thick but also not runny. It was perfect for my taste. And I hope it is for yours too. This is the type of soup I thrive on and I'll probably never make it the same way twice. That's the beauty of it. I hope you will try it out and if you do, I'd love to hear how you liked it. Thanks for allowing me to share my love of soup with you.

For more great cooking posts, be sure to stop by BethFishReads for Weekend Cooking every Saturday!