Book Review: Miss Julia Weathers the Storm by Ann B. Ross

Miss Julia Weathers the Storm
Miss Julia Series #19
Ann B. Ross
Viking, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-7352-2047-8
Hardcover

Miss Julia, a Southern gentlewoman of a certain age, is happily remarried to a loving and generous retired lawyer, Sam Murdoch. Her husband is certainly a contrast to her late husband Wesley Lloyd Springer, who was quick to criticize and tightfisted to boot. It wasn’t until after she buried him that a young woman turned up on her doorstep with a boy in hand—her late husband’s son, as it turned out.

But Miss Julia befriended Hazel Marie and young Lloyd, who is now part of her family. Hazel Marie  married a private detective, Mr. Pickens, who Miss Julia has never warmed to,  and now has twin toddlers.

When her husband suggests renting a beach house on an island and inviting Hazel Marie and her family along, Miss Julia balks. Not because of any dislike of Hazel Marie, but because Miss Julia really doesn’t care to travel. But her husband is so excited about the idea, she relents. Who else to invite? There’s their lawyer friend, Binkie, and her husband Coleman, a sergeant in the local sheriff’s department, and their young daughter Gracie. Then there’s the housekeeper Lillian, and her six year old great granddaughter Latisha. Rounding out the group is Miss Julia’s friend, LuAnne Conover, who suspects her husband is cheating on her, and Etta Mae Wiggins, a home health aid, who manages a mobile home park, and could use a vacation.

Latisha spends her time at the beach looking for sea shells, but on one of the days a lot more than sand dollars washes up on the shore. Hundred dollar bills, suspected to be dumped overboard by drug smugglers, have vacationers scrambling for the money. Three strangers  are overly interested in Latisha’s finds, and later show up in Abbotsville, after Miss Julia and her entourage have all returned home. Is the little girl in danger?

An entertaining addition to this long-running series. Fans of “Steel Magnolias” or Fannie Flagg’s novels will enjoy this slice of southern life, with characters that will keep you wanting more. It’s the nineteenth book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, July 2017.

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Book Review: Next Stop, Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak

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Book Review: If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

If the Creek Don’t Rise
Leah Weiss
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-4926-4745-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

He’s gonna be sorry he ever messed with me and Loretta Lynn

Sadie Blue has been a wife for fifteen days. That’s long enough to know she should have never hitched herself to Roy Tupkin, even with the baby.

Sadie is desperate to make her own mark on the world, but in remote Appalachia, a ticket out of town is hard to come by, and hope often gets stomped out.  When a stranger sweeps into Baines Creek and knocks things off kilter, Sadie finds herself with an unexpected lifeline…if she can just figure out how to use it.

This intimate insight into a fiercely proud, tenacious community unfolds through the voices of the forgotten folks of Baines Creek. With a colorful cast of characters that each contribute a new perspective, IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is a debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

There are only a few authors I’ve come across that write fiction about Appalachia with authority and with a strong sense of understanding, compassion and respect. Catherine Marshall and Sharyn McCrumb come to mind and I’ve now added Leah Weiss to my shortlist. This may be a debut but Ms. Weiss has created a story that, to me, represents the way I personally feel about the Appalachian people and their way of life.

Those of us who live in more traditional, perhaps more “sophisticated” environs get a good taste of Sadie’s insular, self-contained world and, while we think her pregnancy and marriage at such a young age are appalling enough, it’s much harder to comprehend the way of life that would lead her Granny to treat Sadie so harshly. As Sadie says, “Granny don’t do my heart any good” but Granny is what Appalachian mores and society are all about. It all makes thoughts of murder a little more forgiveable.

My heart was immediately taken by Sadie and I was energized by her hopes of escaping this crushing poverty and illiteracy but, truly, nearly all these people, Granny and the abusive Roy included, tugged at me for one reason or another. Some of my reaction is because of my own familiarity with the Appalachian world from regular family trips to the Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee areas when I was growing up and my fondness for fiction set there as well as nonfiction. Ms. Weiss is responsible for drawing me in this time and I truly hope to see more of Sadie and the people of Baines Creek. In the meantime, If the Creek Don’t Rise has a place on my list of best books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Book Depository // Indiebound

An Indie Next, Okra Pick, and LibraryReads 

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About the Author

Leah Weiss is a Southern writer and novelist born in North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. Her debut novel, If the Creek Don’t Rise, will be released in August of 2017. Her short stories have been published in The Simple Life magazine, Every Day Fiction and Deep South Magazine. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. She now pursues writing full time.

Website // Facebook // Goodreads

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“Weiss’ debut novel reveals the best and worst of human nature…
The author’s masterful use of language, including dialect unique
to the area, builds another layer of connection between these
characters while she develops a greater sense of inner isolation
and distance from those outside the community. Weiss’ novel is a
great suggestion for fans of the Big Stone Gap books, by Adriana Trigiani,
and Mitford series, by Jan Karon.” – Booklist, STARRED review

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Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister by Linda Goodnight

The Innkeeper’s Sister
A Honey Ridge Novel #3
Linda Goodnight
HQN Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-373-79947-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Welcome to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, where Southern hospitality and sweet peach tea beckon, and where long-buried secrets lead to some startling realizations…

Grayson Blake always has a purpose—and never a moment to lose. He’s come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery…and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger.

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can’t erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she’s lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth…and hope.

In a nicely flowing blend of past and present, two stories intertwine after a skeleton is found beneath the old gristmill. Both stories revolve around a missing child, one a slave sold away from his family and white friend, the other Valery’s nephew, abducted years ago. Could these bones belong to that child, Mikey? The possibility sends Valery into a maelstrom of new grief as well as guilt that have lain just under the surface all this time, but it’s just as likely that this is someone else, someone from the farm’s Civil War-era family.

Secrets abound in both times and, in some ways, love is what holds the families together, if only by a thread. To be sure, the mystery of the discovered bones needs to be solved, but the growing connection between Valery and Grayson may very well bring the peace they so need. At the same time, the inn, once a farm, has its own colorful and emotion-wrought history and it’s the past and present of Peach Orchard that caught my attention the most.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her emotional stories of hope have won the RITA, the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her deeply emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher.

Connect with Linda:

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, July 11th: Mama Vicky Says – excerpt

Wednesday, July 12th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt

Thursday, July 13th: Books a la Mode – excerpt

Friday, July 14th: Reading is My SuperPower – excerpt

Monday, July 17th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt

Tuesday, July 18th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot – excerpt

Thursday, July 20th: Dwell in Possibility – excerpt

Monday, July 24th: Reading is My SuperPower

Tuesday, July 25th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 26th: Written Love Reviews

Thursday, July 27th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, July 28th: Broken Teepee

Monday, July 31st: Rebel Mommy Book Blog

Tuesday, August 1st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, August 1st: Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 2nd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 3rd: Just Commonly

Friday, August 4th: Books & Bindings

Monday, August 7th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, August 8th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Wednesday, August 9th: A. Holland Reads

Friday, August 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, August 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, August 15th: Becky on Books

Wednesday, August 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 17th: Steph the Bookworm

TBD: Books and Spoons – excerpt

TBD: Book Mama Blog – excerpt

TBD: A Chick Who Reads – excerpt

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Book Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer—and a Giveaway!

Lowcountry Bonfire
A Liz Talbot Mystery #6
Susan M. Boyer
Henery Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-227-6
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

Zeke Lyerly was a teller of tall tales, many involving Army Ranger-style exploits, race cars, hot women, guns and the like and no one really believed them although they were certainly entertaining. His latest adventure wasn’t so captivating but was he really killed because of something so mundane as cheating on his wife? Tammy Sue can’t help but be Suspect Number One when Zeke is found in the trunk of his car, the very car she had set on fire with such vim and vigor, but Liz and Nate have serious doubts. Fortunately for all concerned, the police chief, who happens to be Liz’s brother, Blake, has to let them in on the investigation because of a contractual arrangement. Otherwise, they’d have to skulk around to clear their client.

As a group, the recurring characters in this series are among my favorites but none surpass the delightful Colleen who just happens to be a ghost and can be seen and heard by only Liz and Nate. Colleen has been a real help in solving cases because she can go places and see or hear things that Liz can’t and her snarky attitude always adds an element of humor. Unfortunately, Colleen is not around quite as much this time and our two private eyes have to work a little harder because of it.

The mystery of who killed Zeke and stuffed him in his own car is only the beginning of what could be quite a convoluted story but, in the end, all comes together. Liz and Nate, with more than a little help from friends and family, have to answer a lot of questions and connect the dots in their efforts to clear Tammy Sue (who, by the way, is a pistol). Secrets come to light and the ugly face of revenge surprises most of the residents of this tiny island. It just goes to show that living in a small community doesn’t necessarily mean that your neighbors know everything about you 😉

All in all, I enjoyed this sixth entry in the series every bit as much as the earlier books and my affection for these people hasn’t cooled at all. Ms. Boyer is just going to have to get the next one out PDQ!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

An Excerpt from Lowcountry Bonfire

The dead are not much given to hysteria. The morning Tammy Sue Lyerly piled her husband’s clothes into his Raven Black 1969 Mustang convertible and lit a match, my friend Colleen stayed oddly nonchalant. She’d been dead eighteen years and had seen a thing or two.

For her part, Tammy Sue was pitching an F5 hissy fit. She dug all ten fingers into her 1980s pile of long red hair, clutched her head, and bellowed, “Let it burn.”

Four Stella Maris volunteer firemen cast her worried looks but went about the business of hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant.

We stood in a loose huddle a safe distance from the burning car in the Lyerly driveway.

“I asked you what you were doing here,” said Blake.

My brother, Blake, was the Stella Maris Police Chief. My husband, Nate, and I were private investigators, and Blake purely hated it when we meddled in his business.

“I called her,” said Daddy. “I overheard at the flea market that your sister’d done some work for Tammy Sue recently. Thought maybe she’d want to know.” Daddy shrugged, looked innocent.

Mamma and Daddy lived across the street from the Lyerlys, so naturally Daddy was first on the scene. Mamma had come with him. She raised an eyebrow to let him know she had his number. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock. Daddy sipped coffee from a large insulated stainless steel travel mug, all nonchalant like.

“For cryin’ out loud, Dad. We don’t need the whole town out here this morning.” Blake gave his head a shake. He scanned the neighborhood we’d grown up in. Folks gathered in clumps under the shade of massive live oaks in bordering yards. They’d all come out to see the show. The audience was growing fast. It was early on a Tuesday in the middle of June. Some of those folks were missing work. Blake lifted his Red Sox cap, ran a hand through his hair, and resettled the cap.

Tammy Sue grabbed my arm with one hand and clutched her chest dramatically with the other. “Well, I want her here, and you don’t have a single thing to say about it. This is my property.”

“Yours and Zeke’s.” Blake kept his tone easy, casual. “Where did you say Zeke was again?”

“He’s with that cheap hussy, Crystal Chapman.” Tammy’s eyes glowed with crazy. She leaned forward and hurled the words at Blake. “And he’d better by God not come home unless he wants me to light his ass on fire too.”

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Lowcountry Bonfire

by Susan M. Boyer, just leave
a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday
night, August 2nd. This drawing is
open
to residents of the US.

Book Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays by Ashley Farley

Sweet Tea Tuesdays
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, May 2917
Ebook
Leisure Time Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-946229-37-3
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Picture yourself and a couple of neighbors enjoying a glass of sweet tea on the front porch once a week, spending a little time catching up on each other’s doings and the latest tales about the kids and the men in your lives. Some weeks, you’ll watch the sun set; others, you’ll just savor the warm afternoon and coastal breezes. There are tears sometimes, a lot of laughs, perhaps the occasional spat, and the tea just might become a glass of wine. Most importantly, this is tradition and the essence of friendship, the very reason front porches were created.

Lula, Midge and Georgia are such normal women and so nice (for the most part) but not too much so. I would welcome them all into my life if I could do so and, after reading about the years on that porch, I feel as though I know them as well as my own best friends, alas both now departed. These are seasoned women who have seen and experienced much in their lifetimes and therefore they are compellingly interesting. When life deals Lula what she sees as a bad hand, the effect is nearly catastrophic and heartache is inevitable while continuing to care about her becomes really difficult. Many of us have been faced with problems similar to that which nearly brings the three friends to an apparent impasse; would we react the same or differently?

With each book Ashley Farley writes, she just gets better and better and she has become one of my favorite contemporary Southern fiction authors. Sweet Tea Tuesdays is a summer afternoon’s paean to friendships and family and the ordinary lives of women and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Georgia, Lula and Midge.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Ebook:

Amazon

Print:

Barnes & Noble // Indiebound // Amazon

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About the Author

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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Follow the tour:

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

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Book Review: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

The Hideaway
Lauren K. Denton
Thomas Nelson, April 2017
ISBN 978
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed The Hideaway to her and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering her grandmother’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid drywall dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed her grandmother’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

When it comes to eye-catching book covers, The Hideaway is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Immediately, it made me think of summers on a Southern front porch of an old house with floor-to-ceiling windows and, in fact, that’s exactly what this book is about, an old house that’s as much a character as its humans. I’d like to acknowledge the artist but the advance reading copy I have doesn’t give the name. Whoever it is, kudos!

If it weren’t for the fact that running a bed and breakfast requires much more labor than I’ve ever been willing to do, it has always appealed to me but Sara’s reluctance to restore The Hideaway to its former life is understandable. Sara has her own life in New Orleans and she’s truly happy as an antiques dealer; at the same time, she loved her grandmother and there are memories in Sweet Bay, Alabama. It’s easy to see why she would be drawn in by her grandmother’s last wish, her directive for Sara to not only renovate the house but live in the house during the work.

Mags and Sara had different and yet very similar lives and as Sara’s time in Sweet Bay goes by, we see Mags through her own eyes and narrative. While their respective tragedies weren’t at all alike, the one constant is the importance The Hideaway played in their pasts and Sara begins to learn so much about Mags that she had not known before.

Ms. Denton’s debut is a charming tale of family and hidden lives blended with the sometimes annoying but always loyal people who become extended family, often more important than blood relatives. In essence, this is a tale of reaching for what one’s destiny can be and how those closest to us become embedded in our souls and anyone looking for a comfortable, easy story would do well to pick up The Hideaway.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million

Audible // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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