Chick Lit Café’s Best Books of 2012

Happy New Year! To be honest, this is my least favorite holiday. Aside from the day off from work, what do we have to look forward to other than the grim task of taking down the tree and strategizing weight loss plans? So rather than taking inventory of all my short-comings and weaknesses – especially for all things chocolaty and ice creamy – I decided to cherry-pick my 2012 reading list.

Without further ado, here are the winners!

6617928All-Round Best Book of the Year: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Not since The Secret Life of Bees has a book touched that sweet spot in my heart that yearns for a good ol’ tear-jerking Southern drama.  I instantly fell in love with little CeeCee, a 12-year-old girl who lost her mentally ill mother and found solace in a new tribe of strong Southern women. Like Opal in Because of Win Dixie, CeeCee listens to other people’s lives and provides her own bits of wisdom through hopeful wonder and dead-on honesty. This is an inspiring coming-of-age journey filled with hope, redemption and the divine power of women. Oh how I wish I could spend an afternoon sipping iced tea with this sweet girl and her sisterhood of surrogate mothers in Aunt Tootie’s antebellum mansion…sigh. Go here for my review.

15758840Best Indie Book: I Kill Me by Tracy H. Tucker

This book is the reason why we should never overlook indie authors. Considering the grim subject matter (a middle aged woman facing life after divorce), I was expecting to go through boxes of tissues and buffer my bouts of sadness with Scooby Doo cartoons. But little did I know, most of the tears were from fits of laughter. Somehow, the author found a way to infuse hearty doses of comic relief without undermining the serious issues at hand. The quality writing, the fast-moving plot, the hopelessly neurotic leading lady – everything about this book had me tearing through the pages until I was sure that Christine would get her happily ever after. Read my review here.

11263180Best Young Adult Book: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

This book has got to be one of the most addictive reads I’ve encountered since The Hunger Games. The authors took advantage of their Hollywood screen-writing skills by weaving together a roller-coaster ride of a coming-of-age adventure/romance. The genius of the fast-moving plot is the multiple narratives. Foreshadowed with movie quotes, each chapter is told through the eyes of the major characters – from  the super-flamboyant cross-dressing BFF, to the resident mean girl, to the high school heart throb. All of their stories are compelling, and each of the seemingly clichéd characters slowly chip away at the reader’s heart by exposing their vulnerabilities. This book is like a new-wave John Hughes story mixed with some of my favorite elements from The Breakfast Club, Before Sunrise, and Tom Wolf’s I am Charlotte Simmons. Stay tuned for the review!

223462Best Audiobook: Gods of Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Authors like Joshilyn Jackson are the reason why I love, love, love Southern fiction. Her books (typically involving crazy-ass mothers and emotionally scarred women) are gritty, powerful and downright gut-wrenching. After reading Backseat Saints, I needed to know more about Rose Mae Lolley’s backstory – and boy did this book deliver! Although Rose Mae is only a side character in this novel, I get to learn more about her psychotic high school sweetheart, and how he met his end. The story revolves around Arlene, a highly complex woman who promised God that she would never  lie, have sex or return to her hometown in Alabama. But when her aunt pressures her to attend her uncle’s retirement party, she gives in and reluctantly brings her boyfriend, Burr, along for the ride. As Arlene reneges on her promises, her big, bad secret starts to creep out from under the kudzu. Woo doggie – this is one whirlwind of a ride! I’m so glad I listened to this on audio because the production is fan-freaking-tastic! The narrator fully embraced Arlene’s emotional turmoil – and the subtle music during the suspense scenes really added a nice touch. I’m not from the South, but I’m willing to bet my biscuits that the narrator’s Southern drawl is authentic. Shameless self-prmotion – I know all about twangs and drawls because I wrote this magazne story about the slowly eroding Texas twang.

13493573Best Beach Read: Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

I know it sounds like a million years from now, but when summer rolls around, be sure to stash this book in your beach bag. Set in a quaint little New England touristy beach town, Barefoot Girls is all about friendship, motherhood and deep, dark family secrets. At 400+ pages it’s a little on the long side, but once you get into it you won’t want to leave the idyllic little summer getaway. Through the author’s prose, you can practically smell the salty air and feel the sand beneath your toes. Go here for my review.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish off that box of chocolate truffles before I embark on my strict fitness regimen…yeah, I’ll get right on that.

Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

Usually during this time of year I get a little melancholy about the end of summer. I already miss those lazy afternoons tubing down the river, and those weekend escapes to the Texas coast. So when I want to evoke those sweet sun-kissed memories, I envelop myself in a good beach read filled with sun, fun and a dash of mystery. I couldn’t have picked a better end-of-summer beach read than Tara McTiernan’s Barefoot Girls!

The story centers on Captains Island, a charming little East Coast hamlet where a quartet of best friends reunite each summer at their sacred clubhouse known as the “Barefooters Shack.” Throughout the decades, the girls remained thick as thieves. When the ringleader of the group has an unexpected pregnancy, the women swoop in and raise their “barefoot baby” together as if it was their own.

Surrounded by a circle of fun-loving mothers, little Hannah spent many fun-filled summers on the island. On the surface, she had the perfect childhood. But her debut “novel” says otherwise.

Written with such passion and depth, Hannah’s book touches on some heavy duty childhood abandonment issues. It certainly doesn’t seem like something a 21-year-old could write… unless if she’s drawing from her own personal experiences. When a snarky book reviewer insinuates that the novel is a disguised memoir, Hannah’s melodramatic mother, Keeley, completely shuts down. How could she fabricate such hurtful lies?

Even Hannah questions the motivation behind the poison-penned novel. Her mother gave her everything she needed, so where is all the anger and resentment coming from?

To get some answers, she quits her waitressing job and heads out to the place where it all began, the sacred Barefooters clubhouse. Filled with so many happy

Here’s my Indian summer getaway: Rockport, TX.

memories and dusty photo albums, the shack is her only sanctuary from the storm. But when she arrives to Captains Island during the gloomy off season, the atmosphere feels more like a baron ghost town than a seaside getaway. And for the first time, Hannah doesn’t feel comfort in solitude.

The only way to understand the root of her complex emotions is to dig into her mother’s past. Why did her mother always seem so emotionally detached? And why did she always feel so alone – even in the presence of her doting Barefooters?

She better find answers quick – before she sabotages all chances for happiness, including her engagement with Daniel, the one man who managed to find his way into her heart.

Told through multiple narratives, the author expertly intertwines several plot threads: Past memories of the Barefooters’ childhood adventures, Keeley’s current struggle with alcoholism and life on the Upper East Side, and Daniel’s frustrations with Hannah’s walled-up emotions. And if that’s not enough drama, she also throws in the Barefooters’ childhood bully,  a deranged beauty queen with fading looks and a serious vendetta.

As Hannah delves deeper into her mother’s unbreakable bond with the Barefooters, she begins to realize why she has always gone through life feeling like an outsider. When shocking family secrets are revealed and pent-up emotions come to a head, Hannah must learn how to move forward by letting go of her past.

Overall Barefoot Girls is a captivating story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the everlasting bond between women. At 400+ pages it’s a little on the long side, but once you get into it you won’t want to leave the idyllic little summer getaway. Through the author’s prose, you can practically smell the salty air and feel the sand beneath your toes. If you’re looking for a sweet escape, this book will do the trick!