Five Friday Favorites

988424_566188093488613_1058872697_n Five Friday Favorites is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Book Badger that spotlights five favorite bookish things. Everyone is invited to join in on the fun!

I fudged the rules just a tad (sorry, Book Badger!), by featuring five favorite literary passages instead of the theme du jouer, which is secondary characters. These five books are full of poignant quotes, and I’m excited to share some of my dog-eared pages with you all! As you can see, I am a big-time fan of Ann Brashares and Beth Hoffman!

savingceeceehoneycutt“Life is full of change, honey. That’s how we learn and grow. When we’re born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book.

Chapter by chapter, we live and learn.'”-”
— Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt)

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman“Never tie your happiness to the tail of someone else’s kite.”
― Beth Hoffman (Looking for Me)

9461872“She existed in her friends; there she was. All the parts of herself she’d forgotten. She knew herself best when she was with them.”
— Ann Brashares (Sisterhood Everlasting—Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants #5)

452306“You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love one another. We’re nice to one another. Do you know how rare that is?”
— Ann Brashares (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, #1)

32234“In a perverse way, I was glad for the stitches, glad it would show, that there would be scars. What was the point in just being hurt on the inside? It should bloody well show.”

—Janet Fitch (White Oleander)

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Sinn

1625742_471634879631984_588126569_nMeet CeeCee Honeycutt, the newest member of the Sinn family!  She found her way into my life one fateful morning when I scooped her up from the side of the road. I’ll never forget how scared and lost she looked as she wandered in front of cars near a busy street. Not knowing what to expect, I swung my car door open and called out to her. Without hesitation, she jumped into the Taurus and stared up at me with an unmistakable look of relief.  Since she had no collar or registered microchip, I had to do some serious sleuthing to reunite this mystery mutt with her owner. Little did I know, she had already found her way home.

6617928So what does this have to do with books, you ask? Well if you’re a Beth Hoffman fan, her name should ring a bell. According to my neighbors, her name is CeeCee, which is rather fitting considering that’s the name of one of my most favorite literary characters. In fact, they both started their homeward-bound journeys from very rocky pasts.

Of course there’s no way of knowing what this dog has been through, but I do know that she desperately needed a safe place to land. I may not have a fancy Cadillac or a stately Southern mansion like Aunt Tootie, but I’d like to think that CeeCee is just as thrilled to be living in her new home as her literary counterpart.

If you’re an animal lover and enjoy good books about strong Southern women, check out Beth Hoffman’s blog. This wonderful author is dedicating her book tour to raising money for animal shelters! If you haven’t ready any of her books, you’re in for a real treat. Read my reviews here and here.

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.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Howard

Dare I say it? Could Saving CeeCee Honeycutt be one of my most favorite books of all time? Since I gave it a special place on my favorite bookshelf and plan on reading it again and again, I guess it’s safe to say that yes, this book has earned a spot in Jessica Sinn’s top ten most favorite books. It’s been while since I’ve claimed an inductee, so this is a pretty major event for Chick Lit Café!

It’s actually kind of funny how I stumbled across this book. While shopping at Barnes & Noble for a Father’s Day gift, I swore that I wouldn’t buy myself another book. I was doing really good up until I reached the checkout aisle and noticed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt on top of the impulse buy table. The hummingbird on the cover caught my eye, so I gave in and read the dustcover. And wouldn’t you know, it’s like the book was custom made just for me. It has all the elements I look for in a women’s fiction novel: A haunted protagonist, female bonding, self-discovery and a small Southern town. This was one impulse buy that I will never regret!

Now on to the hard part. I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers would agree that it’s not easy writing a review about a favorite book. There’s so much I want to say, but how do I even begin? I guess I’ll try to give it a shot without getting too carried away. Here’s how it all goes down:

Set in Savannah Georgia in the 1960s, the story revolves around CeeCee Honeycutt, whose life has been shaped by her traumatic childhood with a psychotic mother and absentee father. A former Southern beauty queen, her mother spent her days prancing around the front yard in thrift store prom dresses. Unable to deal with his crazy wife, CeeCee’s dad constantly skips town on “business trips,” leaving her alone to deal with the tantrums and kitchen fires.

Shunned by the neighborhood kids, she longs for a best girlfriend more than anything in the world. To shut out her grim reality, she devours books – especially Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew mysteries.

When tragedy strikes, CeeCee’s great aunt Tootie scoops her up in her Packard Victoria convertible and whisks her off to Savannah, Georgia. Soon she finds herself completely enveloped in a colorful world of lush gardens, historic mansions and Southern hospitality.

This is how I picture aunt Tootie’s mansion on Gaston Street.

But despite her new posh surroundings and blossoming circle of friends, CeeCee’s life isn’t all sweet tea and roses. She has a lot of issues bubbling under the surface that can’t be ignored. Why can’t she cry over her mother’s untimely death? And will she ever be able to forgive her father? With some help from her aunt Tootie, and a bevy of eccentric Southern ladies, she slowly learns how to confront her past.

Like Dorothy entering the Land of Oz, CeeCee meets fascinating new friends along her journey – from a mysterious neighbor who takes moonlit baths in her garden, to a promiscuous town gossip, to a voyeuristic peacock!  But of all the characters, my favorite is Aunt Tootie’s longtime housemaid, Oletta Jones. Similar to Mabel in The Help, she’s haunted by the death of her only child and finds a renewed sense of joy by befriending young CeeCee. As their friendship deepens with every chapter, it becomes very clear they both were destined to find each other. I got really choked up when I read this exchange between Oletta and CeeCee while they were skinny dipping in a neighbor’s pool:

Over and over I practiced saying the words in my mind: I love you, Oletta. I love you. But when I gathered the courage to say them out loud, the words that popped out were, “Oletta, if you and I had met when we were both kids, would you have liked me?”

That question seemed to surprise her as much as it did me. Then in the darkness I could see her eyes crinkle up when she smiled. “Oh, yes, I’da like you just fine, but I’d probably been a little scared of you too.”

“Scared? Why?”

“Because you’re so smart and pretty. Sometimes them two things in one person can mean a whole lot of trouble.”

Call me a sap, but this moment really melted my heart. How I wish I could spend a day with these two kindred spirits eating beaten biscuits and chatting about Nancy Drew!

What I really love about this book is how these women surrounded little CeeCee like a warm hug and lifted her out of the darkness. They cared for her when she was hurting. They listened to her when she unleashed her anxieties. They made her feel wanted after years of neglect. And best of all – they gave her the one thing she always wanted, true friendship. We should all be so lucky to have a strong woman like Oletta or Aunt Tootie in our corner. There’s something very special about a true friend who wholeheartedly wants for your happiness – someone who will go above and beyond to make sure everything is okay.

Overall Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is an exceptional debut. This is a book from the heart, full of strong female voices and bits of wisdom. Beth Howard brilliantly tells the story through the innocent eyes of a 12-year-old girl,  taking readers on a mesmerizing journey of self-discovery. Whatever you do, don’t rush through this book. Like a great vacation, you want to savor each and every moment before it’s over! Fans of Kathryn Stockett, Cassandra King, Rebecca Wells and Billie Letts are sure to be impressed.