Happy Motherless Day

17bees_xlarge1There seems to be no other Hallmark holiday like Valentine’s Day that stirs up such widespread contention among the zillions of people who have zero cause to celebrate.  All the heart-shaped chocolate boxes and jewelry commercials are cruel reminders that they got gypped in the love department. Well that’s exactly how I feel when Mother’s Day rears its ugly head.  The good news, however, is that I get to spend the day lounging around with a good book instead of being smooshed inside a crowded restaurant eating overpriced brunch.  Ha! Take that, Mother’s Day revelers!

So for those of you who enjoy a good book about resourceful women who found their way in the world just fine without a mother, this reading roundup is for you. And hey, on the bright side, all that money you’d be spending on wilting tulips and sappy cards can go toward books. That ought to take the sting out of it, right?

Disclaimer: There are many wonderful, loving mothers out there who deserve to be spoiled on this day. Kudos to them and their lucky children.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

37435Break out that box of tissues! This one’s a tear-jerker. If you feel that you don’t need to read the book because you already saw the movie, think again. The prose, the poetic symbolism, the summertime Southern setting—everything about this book makes my soul sing! Lily’s inner turmoil took me to a familiar place that I’ve locked away, causing stubborn tears rising to the surface for the first time in years. It’s hard to articulate how I felt reading this book. Let’s see…how should I put this? Back when I experienced Disneyland for the first time as a kid, I was blown away by the lights, the sounds, the magic–the bigness of it all. It was like venturing into a whole new vibrant world that I never wanted to leave. Well that’s how I felt on an emotional level while reading Lily’s inner dialogue. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s the truth!   I rooted for her as she found love with her newfound mother figures and came to terms with her abandonment issues. It’s not just one story about Lily’s journey of self-discovery, it’s also a story about standing up for what’s right, demanding justice and equality, and carving a path for yourself in defiance of oppression.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

savingceeceehoneycuttNot 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.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

32234Like listening to the perfect sad song on a bad day, this book has somewhat of a cathartic effect. Anyone who has grown up in a loveless household will identify with Astrid’s struggle. But ultimately this is a story about survival. Let’s face it; a lot of us get the short hand of the stick when it comes to parents. But once we get out from under their thumb, we have the freedom to chart our own destiny.  Astrid’s journey – from a naïve young girl, to a hardened foster kid, to a hopeful young artist –  is a tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit. Go here for my review.

 

 

Made in the USA by Billie Letts

2240527This heart-wrenching story of survival revolves around two orphans, Lutie and Fate, who  hit the road in their dead guardian’s rusted-out Pontiac in search of their estranged father. On their journey, they encounter the darkest side of humanity in a soulless city filled with rapists, murderers, robbers and pimps. When the kids hit rock bottom, their mysterious protector, Juan Vargas, swoops in and brings them into the fold at his family-owned circus in rural Oklahoma.  Away from the harsh city streets, they develop relationships with an eclectic cast of circus performers and slowly but surely come into their own.   Much like her bestselling hit Where the Heart Is, this heartwarming tale explores the depths of family ties, the agony of unexpected loss and the resilience of the human spirit. I recommend this book to anyone who likes feisty female protagonists and rags-to-riches endings. Go here for my review.

“Dance on His Grave” Review & Audiobook Giveaway!

14538706Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Oh how I love Southern mysteries set deep in the heart of the hauntingly beautiful East Texas-Louisiana borderlands.  Sylvia Dickey Smith has mastered the art of evoking a sense of dread in her lyrical atmospheric descriptions of the mysterious bayou country.  Moody atmosphere, colorful characters, good food and one heck of a strong-willed protagonist are all key ingredients for a quality Southern fiction novel. This author delivers all of these things in spades in her Sidra Smart mysteries. That’s why I put Sidra Smart on the top of my list of favorite Southern detectives—right next to David Robichauex, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. If you haven’t heard of those other guys, I advise you to Google James Lee Burke and Joe Lansdale immediately!

In this first installment of the Sidra Smart Mystery Series, Sid has emancipated herself from a loveless, sheltered marriage. No longer an obedient preacher’s wife, she’s thrust into a whole new world of independence and opportunity.

She reaches a crossroads when she inherits her dead brother’s PI business. With zero knowledge of how to run a business—let alone solve mysteries—she’s ready to sell it off to the lowest bidder. Yet when her controlling ex-husband tries to push her into doing just that, she decides to slap on her gumshoes out of sheer defiance! And really, that’s what I love about Sidra Smart. She’s bold, brave and ready to take on new adventures, despite the legions of naysayers who will stop at nothing to watch her fail.

Before she’s ready to pick up a  copy of “How to Run a PI Business for Dummies,”  her first client walks in with a cold case that would stump even Sherlock Holmes. Despite her best interest, Sidra agrees to look into the 30-year-old mystery revolving around two innocent girls caught up in an unimaginable world of horrors.  The horror show intensifies as she looks deeper into the case and discovers a tangled web of town secrets, torture and arson. Trust me, once you get to know the villain, you’ll understand the meaning of the book’s title, “Dance on His Grave.”

The plot thickens when Sid finds a connection between the bizarre cold case and her brother’s mysterious car accident. And just with any good thriller, the danger heats up as our heroine gets closer to the truth. Who is sneaking into her home and leaving ominous threats? Is it her ex-husband’s God-fearing disciples, or could it be a demented child-abusing killer? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

With some help from her newfound friend and fellow PI, George Leger, she carries on with the case—even when all hope seems to be lost.  She also gets a little help from her meddlesome Aunt Annie, who is always there to help Sid pick up the pieces when the chips are down. I’m especially fond of the Cajun-speaking George, who’s interesting enough to have his own spinoff story.

This is not your typical amateur sleuth mystery, mainly because there are some really weighty issues at the core of the story. Some of the descriptions of are rather dark and disturbing, so this book is not for the squeamish. Filled with punchy dialogue, cliffhanger chapter endings and unspeakable crimes, this book is somewhat of a mash-up of Karin Slaughter meets Gillian Flynn with a Cajun twist. Hard-boiled mystery fans are sure to enjoy this puzzling whodunit.

Enter to Win a Free Audiobook!

imagesU9JY9PEDI should also mention that the author gave me this book via Audible.  The narrator did a fantastic job unfolding the story in a somber tone. Unlike other narrators who drive me bonkers with their rapid-speed chipmunk-on-crack storytelling, she did a stellar job keeping the pace and capturing Sid’s voice.  I highly recommend listening to this on audio. In fact, the author has offered to give away a free audiobook. All you have to do is post a comment answering the following question and the winner will be picked at random. Don’t fret if you’re not an Audible member.  You can still receive the audiobook without an account.

Who is your favorite thriller author?

Audiobook Pick of the Month: Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Looking for Me by Beth HoffmanFrom the publisher: Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Why I liked it: This book is the reason why I LOVE Southern fiction.  With a storyteller’s easy grace, Beth Hoffman whisked me away on Teddi’s emotional journey from a small town farmer’s daughter to a successful antique shop owner. Filled with messages of hope, kindness and tolerance, the story cuts to the very core of what is meant by “paying it forward.”

I especially love how Teddi’s journey of self-discovery revolves around antiques. There’s something very beautiful about breathing new life into an old, unwanted item.  One of the reasons why I adore Teddi is that she sees the beauty in everything and refuses to give up hope. With each chapter, I rooted for her as she struggled to connect with her emotionally-detached mother, and when she relentlessly searched for her missing brother. But what I love most about Teddi is that she’s kind to others without expecting anything in return.

One of my most favorite moments happened toward the end of the book when Teddi took pity on an old, destitute man who appeared at her store with a truck load of old antiques to sell. She didn’t particularly want to purchase unsolicited goods, but she didn’t have the heart to  turn him away.  I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that her good deeds paid off big time in the end!

Favorite secondary character: Of all the wonderful characters in this book, it’s hard to choose a favorite. As Teddi begins to find her place in the world, she befriends an unforgettable cast of characters, including Tula Jane Poteet, an old, eccentric kleptomaniac ; Olivia, Teddi’s romantically-challenged best friend; and Albert, a gifted antiques restorer with a sour disposition and a heart of gold.

I guess if I had to choose, my favorite would be Mr. Palmer, the owner of a Charleston antiques store who gave Teddi her first big break into the business. He was the first to recognize her artistic talent and gave her the encouragement to pursue her passion. We should all be so lucky to have a Mr. Palmer in our lives.

The narrator: If there was an academy award for audiobooks, this narrator should win best actress! Jenna Lamia does a stellar job capturing each of the characters’ unique voices. With her authentic Southern accent and effortless storytelling skills, she delivers a top-notch performance for a truly great book. She also narrates Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, which by the way is one of my all-time most favorite books. You can read all about it here!

Summed up in three words: Heartwarming, poignant, memorable.

Audiobook Pick of the Month: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

10960383Summary (from the publisher) A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it’s there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey’s strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women’s shared past–and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

 Why I liked it:  There’s a lot of really good women’s fiction writers out there, but Joshilyn Jackson is in a league of her own. She has a knack for describing incredibly complex thoughts and feelings in a way that really connects readers with the characters. For a while there, I almost felt like I was Mosey. I hung on to the narrator’s every word as the story slowly unfolded, always teasing me with more questions than answers about Mosey’s sordid family history.

This author never ceases to amaze me with her intoxicating stories about Southern women with haunted backstories and serious psychological issues. As a fledgling author, I have to admit that I’m rather intimidated by her raw talent for lyrical prose. The last chapter is sheer poetry. I guess if I had to put her in a league, she’d be in the dugout with the likes of Stephen King, Janet Fitch and Robert McCammon

The narrator: You’d think that authors would be ideal narrators, but typically their performances fall flat. They tend to sound like a bored librarian entertaining little kiddies at a story-time reading circle. But much to my surprise, Joshilyn Jackson did a standup job narrating this book. Her authentic Southern drawl really added to the characters’ personalities. There were quite a few characters in this book – which can be really confusing on audio – but she gave each of them a distinct tone. I really loved how she’d lower her voice a few octaves to drum up the suspense. Really well done!

Favorite character: There’s a lot of fascinating characters in this story, but Big (aka Ginny Slocumb) really stole my heart. She is everything a mother should be: Protective, loving and self-sacrificing. I loved how she stopped at nothing to rehabilitate her daughter in defiance of naysayers who swore she’d be a vegetable for the rest of her life. She’s headstrong, feisty and incredibly smart. I especially enjoyed how she handled her family’s tormenter toward the end of the book. Well played, Big!

Summed up in three words: Mesmerizing. Heart wrenching. Poetic.

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.

Dancing Naked in Dixie Review & Author Interview

How cool would it be to make a living as a travel writer? Jet-setting to lavish bucket list-worthy destinations on the company’s dime sure sounds like a dream come true. But then again, how could you make a life for yourself if you never really have a place to call home? What if white sandy beaches, poolside cocktails and cute cabana boys all just became another part of the daily grind? Hmm…maybe Samantha Brown’s life isn’t all champagne and roses after all.

For Julia Sullivan, the leading lady in Dancing Naked in Dixie, the frenetic life of a travel writer is the perfect escape from reality. Shattered by her mother’s death, she distracts herself by flitting from one country to the next and putting together generic stories at the last minute. With nothing to come home to, except an empty Manhattan apartment and a workaholic boyfriend, Julia’s fast-pace lifestyle is the perfect distraction from her empty life.

After turning in another flat travel story, the new editor in chief gives her one last chance to write a solid piece. But rather than sending her to an exotic resort as originally planned, he’s reassigning her to Eufaula, Alabama. To make matters worse, the new head honcho just so happens to be Julia’s estranged father. Ouch!

Like your typical city slicker, she scoffs at the idea of writing a glossy magazine story about a podunk country town. In fact, she’d rather dance naked that travel to Alabama!

Home of antebellum mansions, super-sweet tea and Southern belles, Eufaula is a far cry from the bustling streets of Manhattan. But just the thought of slowing down and smelling the roses sends Julia into a tizzy. Without a rigid schedule of spa treatments, scuba diving and five-star dining, she might have to finally stand still and be alone with her thoughts.

Despite her misgivings, she soon finds herself enveloped in a colorful world of fragrant magnolia trees, quirky townsfolk and stately historic mansions. And after meeting the charming locals – including a most handsome town historian – her plans to write a quick and dirty story soon fall to the wayside.

Little did she know, her story takes second seat to the drama unfolding around Phase Three, a development plan put in motion by some shady dealings with the city council.  But it’s not just the local politics that keep her from rushing back to New York. Somehow she managed to get attached to her handsome tour guide and his quirky family. Heck, she’s even growing fond of the flamboyant B&B owner, Roger, who never lets her slip out the door without a gabfest.

Unlike any other travel adventure, this is the first time Julia really connects with her surroundings. And for the first time since her mother’s death, she’s starting to feel whole again.

How is she ever going to return to her jet-setting lifestyle after leaving a big piece of her heart in Eufaula? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Trust me, fellow Southern fiction fans, it’s worth your while!

I was really impressed by Lauren’s debut novel Stay Tuned but this one really stole my heart. Many readers, myself included, will undoubtedly connect with Julia’s endearing personality. Despite her flaws, she’s compassionate toward others and truly cares about the fate of a small town that’s far removed from her own life in Manhattan.

What I love most about this book is the balance of heartache and humor. To quote the great Truvy Jones (Steal Magnolia fans, you know who I’m talking about!) laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. And Lauren Clark does a fine job of tickling my funny bone while tugging at my heartstrings.  If you aren’t already a Lauren Clark fan,  Dancing Naked in Dixie will help draw you into her fold.

Without further ado, I am pleased to present a Q&A with the mastermind behind this fun and frothy story of self-discovery, Lauren Clark.

Welcome Lauren! What do you love most about being a writer?

 I do love connecting with readers just after a book has been released. There’s so much excitement and worry about how the story will be received. With Dixie, I’ve been so amazed with the warm reception and readers embracing the characters right away! I actually held off on committing to come to Eufaula for a book signing until a few people there had read it and LIKED it . They’ve invited me August 2nd to Shorter Mansion , so that’s a good sign!

 I read on your blog that Eufaula is a real small town in Alabama. Why did you choose to set your story in this particular Southern hamlet?

 I used to live about a half-hour from Eufaula, and one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon was to drive up to Eufaula, have lunch and walk around the historic district. I attended several of the Pilgrimages, one at dusk when the streets light up with candles and everyone is in old-fashioned dress. It’s so lovely, like stepping back in time two hundred years.

 You did a fabulous job describing the sights, the sounds and the people of Eufaula. It’s almost as though the town is a character itself! Why is it important to pay close attention to the setting in a story?

 I think that readers like to explore a place they’ve never been or might never visit. I think that it’s the author’s job to provide enough setting details to make it seem real and come alive. Too much detail, and it’s overwhelming; just enough and it doesn’t get in the way of the story. I actually poured over maps of the city and marked the different locations, then tacked it up on my wall so that I had the picture firmly in my mind of where Julia would go and what she would see!

There are so many colorful characters in your book. If you could take one of them out to lunch, who would you choose and why?

 I love Roger. He’s so flamboyant, yet insecure at times. He’s the best friend you’d want to have in Eufaula – he knows everyone and everything that goes on. He’s the catastrophe manager; always the one who knows what to do and say in a crisis.

What do you love about Southern living?

There’s something about the way of life in the South that makes a person breathe a little deeper, sleep a little better, and enjoy the little things in life. The sky is blue almost every day, there are flowers blooming everywhere, and right now, the peaches are so ripe that you can smell summer right in the palm of your hand.

What kind of research went into writing this book? Did you go on any pilgrimages in Eufaula or perhaps another charming small town?

 I did attend Pilgrimages in Eufaula, but have not had an opportunity to do so in other towns. It’s on my bucket list!

While reading your book, I thought of that cute WB show “Hart of Dixie.” In terms of Southern culture, where does Hollywood go right? And where do they miss the mark?

 I adore Zoe Hart and George … I’ve been a big fan of the show since the start. I think that Zoe and Julia would be fast friends. And I can’t decide if I love or hate Wade … and just when Lemon is awful, I melt a little and empathize with her high-strung character. I do wish she would just hook up with the Mayor and get it over with!!!  (Disclaimer: I began writing Dancing Naked in Dixie more than five years ago … and finished it up when a friend begged me to. It was right around the time when “Hart of Dixie” came on the air!!)

I think that Hollywood goes overboard when they cast characters from the Deep South as uneducated and not very bright. I’ve met so many wonderful, talented, and brilliant people since I moved to Alabama, I feel lucky to call them my friends.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring novelists?

 I have several:  (1) It takes a lot of hard work to get that first manuscript done. My advice is to finish it, no matter how awful or flawed your story. My first novel will NEVER see the light of day, but I had to get through it to learn and improve. (2) Someone wise once said that you have to write a million words before you find your voice as an author. I have to admit – as  much as I hate to – that it is true. (3) I read as much as I can about the craft of writing (three dozen books, at least) and listen to advice from authors who have been there in the trenches long before I picked up my laptop. (4) I read a lot of books – not just fiction – and not just in my favorite genre. I believe that it’s a great way to stimulate creativity and open your mind to possibilities. You never know where that next story idea might come from!!!

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

 I would love for readers to understand Julia’s journey. She has (as we all do) many preconceived notions about a place she’s never been and people who she’s never met. She’s not happy about visiting tiny Eufaula, Alabama. Yet, when she opens herself up to the possibilities, slows down, and takes in the beauty and love that she’s surrounded with, it changes her life.  In a sentence, Dixie is about finding happiness in the most unexpected of places.

 Could you give me a sneak peek into your next book? Will there be more adventures in store for Julia Sullivan?

I’ve had so many readers ask if there will be a sequel!!!  (Yay & Throws Confetti!!) I would love to catch up with Shug and Julia in the near future. I want to see what happens with their relationship, how Julia handles her new feelings, and whether she’s able to settle down in a small town. I grew to adore these characters – and  feel like there’s so much more to explore with PD, David, Aubie, and even Mary Katherine.  As far as my next project – I  am researching for my next novel, The Pie Lab, which is a real restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. This story will follow a girl who’s gone off to a big city (like Atlanta or New York) and vows NEVER to come home. She’s forced to return to Greensboro, though, when her romantic relationship falls apart. Since she’s burned a lot of bridges, it will be interesting to see how she makes amends.  The Pie Lab, as a business, is a great concept, as it offers on-the-job training and the owners are very active in the community. Added bonus…the pies are delicious! The Pie Lab has been featured in Southern Living and The New York Times.

Thank you so very much for hosting me on your site. I am indebted to my readers and the wonderful bloggers like you who have supported Dixie.

Thank YOU, Lauren! I also want to thank my pal Samantha over at Chick Lit Plus for making me a part of the blog tour. For more about this fabulous author, check out her website. You can also hear her discuss her new book on Sylvia Dickey Smith’s Writing Strong Women Blog Talk Radio Show!

Sundays in Bed with…(#1)

There’s nothing I’d rather do on a Sunday than laze around in bed with a good book and a pudgy cat. While everyone’s off running errands, working out and being productive, I’m unashamedly still in my PJs sipping coffee and immersing myself in a new story. When I came across the Midnight Book Girl’s cool meme, I couldn’t resist joining my fellow book bloggers – my soul sisters – in their blissful Sunday morning reading adventures!

This morning I’m completely wrapped up in Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt.  One hundred pages zipped by in a flurry and now I’m in need of another box of Kleenex!  I haven’t been this moved by a book since I read The Help.

The story revolves around Cee Cee Honeycutt, a lonely little girl who really got the shaft in the parent department. The first riveting chapters take you through Cee Cee’s plight as the daughter of a bat-shit crazy mother and absentee, alcoholic father.  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 Nancy Drew mysteries.

When tragedy strikes,  Cee Cee’s great aunt Tootie swoops in and whisks her off to Savannah, Georgia. Like little orphan Annie, Cee Cee instantly goes from an abusive, loveless existance to a wondrous world of prosperity, hope and friendship.

A huge lump formed in my throat when I read this exchange between Aunt Tootie and Cee Cee.  

“Your mind must be swimming right now, but I want you to know that I’ve got a big ole house with plenty of room, and I’d love to have you.”

Those six simple words echoed around me and filled the room with light: I’d sure love to have you…I’d sure love to have you…

My shoulders began to shake, and to my disbelief, hot tears spilled from my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Aunt Tootie wrapped me in her arms and pulled me close.

Wow! I can tell you right now that this book is going to be one of my faves!

So what are you reading this morning?

“The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch” by Marsha Moyer

I’m what you would call a born again Texan.  Yes I was raised in San Diego, but Texas has always felt more like home. I’d so much rather tube down the river in my pink cowboy hat than jump through the waves in the Pacific Ocean. I’ll take a chopped brisket sandwich over a fish taco any day! Shoot I’d even pass up on a trip to Disneyland to go fishing at the Sabine River. Yep, I’m a red dirt country girl through and through.  And that’s why I can’t resist books that take place in the South. When I came across Marsha Moyer’s Lucy Hatch series, set in a town that seems identical to my grandparent’ s stomping grounds in Gladewater, Texas – I  knew I was in for a treat!

 Here is a little taste of “The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch,” the first book of the series.    

After her husband’s horrific death by tractor, Lucy Hatch returns to her sleepy little hometown in the piney woods of East Texas.  For 14 years, she lived the simple life as a farmer’s wife, spending her days gazing out the window at her silent, passionless husband as he plowed the fields. 

 Thrust into widowhood at the tender age of 33, she tries to rebuild a  life of peace and solitude. With some help from her wise old aunt Dove and her brother and sister-in-law Bailey and Geneva , she gets herself a delivery job at the local florist shop and saves enough money to rent a little house.  And just when she starts to get her bearings, a new wrench is thrown into the works. 

When she catches the eye of the local country music star, Ash Farell, she discovers a tingling in her belly she never knew existed.  Bewildered by her attraction to the brooding bad boy and her lack of grief over her husband’s death, she must come to terms with her past and figure out what she wants for her future. Will Ash be a part of it?

Beautifully written, this sweet southern yarn explores the complexities of love, loss and coming home again.  I  fell in love with all the colorful characters, including the town of Mooney – a character all in itself!  I could practically smell the wood smoke from the roadside BBQ stand and see the crowd of boot-scootin’ couples shuffling to Ash’s soulful strummings at the local honky tonk. Marsha is a truly gifted storyteller with a knack for atmosphere and insightful prose. Like a hearty platter of Texas smoked brisket, this book stuck with me long after I devoured it!  So thank you, Marsha,  for transporting me back to a place that always feels like home.