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Mailbox Monday #413

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which I purchased for Book Club reading.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, which is my first GoodReads giveaway win! This one comes out in April 2017.

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….”

The Poetry of Weldon Kees: Vanishing as Presence by John T. Irwin for review in May.

Weldon Kees is one of those fascinating people you’ve likely never heard of. What is most captivating about Kees is that he disappeared without a trace on July 18, 1955. Police found his 1954 Plymouth Savoy abandoned on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge one day later. The keys were still in the ignition. Though Kees had alluded days prior to picking up and moving to Mexico, none of his poetry, art, or criticism has since surfaced either north or south of the Rio Grande.

Kees’s apparent suicide has led critics to compare him to another American modernist poet who committed suicide two decades earlier–Hart Crane. In comparison to Crane, Kees is certainly now a more obscure figure. John T. Irwin, however, is not content to allow Kees to fall out of the twentieth-century literary canon. In The Poetry of Weldon Kees, Irwin ties together elements of biography and literary criticism, spurring renewed interest in Kees as both an individual and as a poet.

Irwin acts the part of literary detective, following clues left behind by the poet to make sense of Kees’s fascination with death, disappearance, and the interpretation of an artist’s work. Arguing that Kees’s apparent suicide was a carefully-plotted final aesthetic act, Irwin uses the poet’s death as a lens through which to detect and interpret the structures, motifs, and images throughout his poems–as the author intended. The first rigorous literary engagement with Weldon Kees’s poetry, this book is an astonishing reassessment of one of the twentieth century’s most gifted writers.

The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero by Brett Favaro for review in April.

Favaro’s Carbon Code of Conduct is based on the four R’s: Reduce, Replace, Refine, and Rehabilitate. After outlining the scientific basics of climate change and explaining the logic of the code he prescribes, the author describes carbon-friendly technologies and behaviors we can adopt in our daily lives. However, he acknowledges that individual action, while vital, is insufficient. To achieve global sustainability, he insists that we must make the fight against climate change “go viral” through conspicuous conservation.

The Carbon Code is a tool of empowerment. People don’t need to be climate change experts to be part of the solution! In this book, Brett Favaro shows you how to take ownership of your carbon footprint and adopt a lifestyle of conspicuous conservation that will spur governments and corporations to do the same. Climate-friendly action is the best decision on every dimension–economics, health and well-being, and social justice. Saving the planet is, after all, about saving ourselves. The Carbon Code provides a framework to do this, and helps you to become a hero in the fight against climate change.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #406

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received?

A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery, a surprise from Tandem Literary.

Zoe Saldivar is more than just single-she’s ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it’s up to her to stop living in isolation.

Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated-her first new friend is Jen’s widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen’s brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe’s own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam’s flustered, Jen’s annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think “alone” doesn’t sound so bad, after all.

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White for review.

With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more.

But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.

Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.

Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried….

What did you get?

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is set in 1892, 1920, 1944 and the art that connects Olive Van Alan, Lucy Young, and Dr. Kate Schuyler to one another through the generations is not the biggest mystery, neither is their relationship to one another. What is forgotten in this tale of love, disappointment, and fate is trust – it’s locked up, hidden in an attic room. There is broken trust between mother-daughter, lovers, and between the past and present.

“As the only female doctor on staff, it was hard enough maintaining the persona of a woman with no feelings or personal needs in front of the male doctors. It was nearly impossible in front of the nurses. If they’d asked me why I’d become a doctor, I would have told them. But they didn’t ask. They seemed to be of a like mind when it came to me — I was a doctor because I thought I was too good to be a nurse.” (pg. 2 ARC)

In addition to gender issues that persist in all three time periods — with women taking on work outside the home — these women also face the harsh realities of a world on the cusp or in the midst of change. From the rise of new money and decadence and the crash that wiped out many wealthy families’ fortunes to prohibition and WWII, there were great opportunities and traumatic losses. Olive is a dreamer with a positive outlook even as she strives to avenge the death of her father, while Kate is a woman determined to make her mark on the medical community and carve her own path to happiness. Lucy is a bit of a wildcard; she has ambition, but not quite enough to carry her through some disappointments on her own.

“‘What your parents did isn’t who you are.'” (pg. 228 ARC)

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is a sweeping novel about the ties that bind these women together and their family secrets, but also how their lives are wrapped in the work of an artist with the last name Ravenel. Each story of romance is heartbreaking, but the strongest is that between Olive and Harry Pratt. Their love reverberates through the entire novel — it is the anchor that binds these three generations of women.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Authors:

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Her books include Overseas (2012), A Hundred Summers (2013), The Secret Life of Violet Grant (2014), Tiny Little Thing (2015), Along the Infinite Sea (2015), The Forgotten Room (2016), and the forthcoming A Certain Age (June 2016)

Lauren Willig is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen works of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

The Best Books of 2015

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I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:


  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD


What were your favorites in 2015?

Mailbox Monday #351

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Nine Coins/Nueve Monedas by Carlos Pintado, translated by Hilary Vaughn Dobel, introduction by Richard Blanco for review from Akashic Books.

Nine Coins/Nueve monedas is a palimpsest of love, fears, dreams, and the intimate landscapes where the author seeks refuge. These poems appear like small islands of salvation, covered with the brief splendor of the coins people sometimes grab hold of, taking the form of a very personal and often devastating map. Each poem is a song at the edge of an abyss; an illusory gold coin obtained as a revelation; a song of hope and understanding. The volume’s dreamlike geography prompts the reader to revisit the thread, the labyrinth, and the Minotaur’s legends. The night streets of South Beach, Alexandria, and many other cities, lit by the fading torches, seem to guide us in conversation with characters who are long dead.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and more for review from Penguin for review.

1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room? 

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King from my mom as an early Christmas present.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.

What did you receive?

The Sound of Glass by Karen White

Source: New American Library
Hardcover, 432 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Sound of Glass by Karen White, published today, embarks on a journey that will leave readers slowly unraveling the interconnected lives of Mrs. Heyward in the late 1950s and the Mrs. Heyward in the new millennia.  Edith Heyward is a woman who lives a closed life in her attic where she makes wind chimes out of sea glass, but she also lives a large life inside those tiny, humid walls.  She tiptoes around not only her husband, but also her son and one of her grandsons, but even after they have left her home, she still closes herself off from the outside world.  Meanwhile, Merritt Heyward, who married Edith’s grandson Cal, has taken the chance and given up her life in Maine to come to Beaufort, S.C., where a home she’s inherited as Cal’s widow lays out its secrets in a methodical way.

“She’d barely slid from her stool when the sky exploded with fire, illuminating the river and the marshes beneath it, obliterating the stars, and shooting blurry light through the milky glass of the wind chime.  The stones swayed with shocked air, singing sweetly despite the destruction in the sky behind them.  Then a rain of fire descended like fireworks, myriad balls of light extinguished as soon as they collided with water into hiccups of steam.”  (pg. 2 ARC)

While much of Edith’s pain is in secret, except to her immediate family, her sense of justice and right will push her to investigate the mysterious plane crash above her home in South Carolina.  As she works on this case in secret, she’s simultaneously balancing the need for family calm and the desire for change within the family dynamic.  What ultimately drives her family to separate will also bring it back together and resolve a nearly 50 year old mystery.

“‘She always said that only fools thought all glass was fragile.'” (pg. 31 ARC)

Fast-forward to the present day, and Merritt find herself trying to curl up into a ball on her own, only to realize that Southern manners will not allow it.  On top of her new well-meaning neighbors, she also must confront a brother-in-law she never knew about and adjust to life with her step-mother and younger brother Owen.  As Merritt learns the traditions of Southern living, she also begins to realize that like drinking Coke with peanuts, you have to take the bitter with the sweet in life.  While she may have found love with Cal, she also knew there were wounds that would never heal, and some that hovered below the skin’s surface that she was unaware of.

The Sound of Glass by Karen White is a multi-layered story about family, their secrets, and the innocuous connections that can lead to lasting relationships and memories to be cherished.  What breaks us can only make us stronger, and in some cases, some of us are unaware that we are broken and in need of fixing.  Denial can be a powerful drug, as can self-protection, but family bonds and love are the only true healing power in this story and in our own lives.  White is a successful writer of Southern, women’s fiction for a reason, and once readers buy one book, they’ll be addicted and buy the rest!

***Another contender for the 2015 Best List***

About the Author:

Known for award-winning novels such as Learning to Breathe, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2009 Book of the Year Award finalist The House on Tradd Street, the highly praised The Memory of Water, the four-week SIBA bestseller The Lost Hours, Pieces of the Heart, and her IndieBound national bestseller The Color of Light, Karen has shared her appreciation of the coastal Low country with readers in four of her last six novels.

Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a storyteller by birth, Karen has made her home in many different places.  Visit the author at her website, and become a fan on Facebook.

My other reviews:

Mailbox Monday #319

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou from the author for review.

What was Jane Austen like as a child? What were her formative influences and experiences, her challenges and obstacles, that together set her on the path toward becoming a writer?

Drawing upon a wide array of sources, including Austen’s own books and correspondence, Lisa Pliscou has created a “speculative biography” that, along with 20 charming black-and-white illustrations, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of young Jane Austen. Also included is a richly detailed, annotated version of the narrative and an overview of Austen’s life, legacy, and the era in which she lived, as well as a timeline of her key childhood events.

YOUNG JANE AUSTEN is sure to intrigue anyone interested in Jane Austen, in writing and the creative process, and in the triumph of the artistic spirit.

2.  Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke from the publisher for review.

Poetry by Joe Wenke. Joe has written several books including: Human Agenda: Conversations about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (January 2015), The Talk Show: a Novel, Free Air: poems, Papal Bull: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church, You Got Be Kidding! A Radical Satire of The Bible and Mailer’s America.

 

3.  The Sound of Glass by Karen White for review from the publisher.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

4.  The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy for a TLC Book Tour.

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.  Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

5.  One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart, my pre-ordered hardcover finally arrived!

Set in Florence, Italy, One Thing Stolen follows Nadia Cara as she mysteriously begins to change. She’s become a thief, she has secrets she can’t tell, and when she tries to speak, the words seem far away.

What did you receive this week?

Savvy’s Best of 2014 List

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I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

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Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 368 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is a collection of short stories by a number of great authors from Karen White to Sarah McCoy and Pam Jenoff in which the linchpin is Grand Central Station in New York City.  What makes this collection a solid five stars (a designation I never use in reviews) is the connections — small as they may be — between the stories and characters.  You’ll find one character from a story early on is in the background and evokes an emotion in a character in a story later on.  This collection is so strong and examines that various aspects of reunion and love after World War II — whether that is love between father and daughter or an instant connection between strangers in a train station.

From “Going Home” by Alyson Richman

“But no matter the style, the clocks all gave a sense that one had to keep moving, and Liesel liked this.  It enabled her to focus on her responsibilities.  When she wasn’t dancing, she was sewing.  And when she wasn’t sewing, she was dancing, either at her ballet studies or performing at the supper clubs that helped pay her bills.” (page 14)

In these talented ladies’ hands, Grand Central comes to life with the bustling passengers on their way to trains and coming from trains and the subway, the people earning a living with their art in the hallways, and those waiting for their soldiers to return from war.  World War II was a pivotal time in history, but it also was the last time that the country was truly united behind a cause — the cause against a pervasive evil that must be vanquished.  These stories are about what happens when that cause is complete and those who fought and those left behind have to pick up what’s left of their lives.  What does it mean to be lucky, especially when you are all that’s left of your family — like Peter in “The Lucky One” by Jenna Blum?  Or what does a mother do after the Lebensborn program ends when her children are gone and the Nazis are vanquished in Sarah McCoy’s “The Branch of Hazel.”

From “The Harvest Season” by Karen White:

I glanced down at my ruined hands, thinking of Johnny and all the boys in the county who would never be coming home.  I wanted desperately to hold on to this moment for Will, to allow him to believe that while he’s been away we’d held on to the life he remembered so he could slip back into it like a familiar bed.  But time could not be fenced no matter how hard we tried.”  (page 336)

Some of these men and women face pivotal moments in their lives in Grand Central Station, while others are merely passing through onto that moment that will change their lives forever, but all together these are tales of strong people living beyond the hurt of the past to seek out the hope of the future.  Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is stunning, an emotional collection tied together by love, sadness, loss, and Grand Central Station. No matter who passes through their lives, there is an indelible impression left behind.

22nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

15th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

A Long Time Gone by Karen White

Source: Penguin
Hardcover, 432 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

A Long Time Gone by Karen White is the quintessential novel with a multigenerational family saga, southern  charm, and mystery wrapped up in one package.  Vivien Walker is the latest generation of Walker women to chase ghosts and leave the Mississippi Delta for parts unknown, but she’s also a lot more like her mother Carol Lynne than she thinks.  Love is boundless among these women who care for vegetables and family with the same careful hands, nurturing them until they are ready to take to their own journeys.  Vivien comes back to Mississippi after her marriage to a plastic surgeon fails miserably, but she’s hopeful that her grandmother, Bootsie, can help pick up the pieces.

“I was born in the same bed that my mama was born in, and her mama before her, and even further back than anybody alive could still remember.  It was as if the black wood of the bedposts were meant to root us Walker women to this place of flat fields and fertile soil carved from the Great Mississippi.  But like the levees built to control the mighty river, it never held us for long.”  (page 1)

Vivien’s childhood was peppered with short visits from her mother, as she left on another adventure in the 1960s.  She grew to resent her mother’s absences and when she left her childhood home for California, she didn’t look back for nine years.  Upon her return, Vivien is unsure how she feels about her mother’s presence and the loss of so much, including a beloved family member.  Vivien must learn to reach out of the fog that keeps her docile and deal not only with her past, but the future as well.  White’s characters are always complex, and while not without faults, nearly always easy to cheer for.  Vivien has lived too much in the past, and she must realize that she cannot go back and change things, but move forward with greater purpose and conviction.

“I wonder how far from Mississippi I have to get before I forget about the place I came from.  My memories of home are like a river, and I spend a lot of time fighting the current that’s always trying to take me back.”  (page 189)

Told in shifting point of views between the 2000s and the 1920s, plus the 1960s diary entries of Carol Lynne, White builds the past through the eyes that saw it happen, peppering it with parallels to the future in Vivien’s life path.  Weaving in elements of history from hidden genealogy of mixed race children, bootleggers, KKK, and the 1960s freedom rides and hippie days, White has created an engaging and informative novel about the trials each of us faces in our own families and how even outside forces can influence those lives in unforeseen and unexpected ways.  A Long Time Gone by Karen White is about the long road some of us can take to find our homes and feel our family connections deeply even when we’re away.  It’s about forgiveness and love, and how it can tether us together even miles from home.

About the Author:

Known for award-winning novels such as Learning to Breathe, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2009 Book of the Year Award finalist The House on Tradd Street, the highly praised The Memory of Water, the four-week SIBA bestseller The Lost Hours, Pieces of the Heart, and her IndieBound national bestseller The Color of Light, Karen has shared her appreciation of the coastal Low country with readers in four of her last six novels.

Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a storyteller by birth, Karen has made her home in many different places.  Visit the author at her website, and become a fan on Facebook.

19th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #270

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. Darkness Bound by J.T. Geissinger, an unexpected surprise from Amazon.

Tough, smart, and seriously ambitious, reporter Jacqueline “Jack” Dolan despises the secretive clan of shape-shifters known as the Ikati—and has become determined to destroy them. After she writes an editorial arguing for their extermination and turns public opinion against them, the Ikati vow to fight back. They plot to send one of their own to seduce the reporter, then blackmail her into writing a retraction.

Women practically fall at the feet of hulking, handsome Hawk Luna, and Hawk relishes the idea of conquering and destroying the fiery redhead who’s caused so much trouble for his kind. The last thing he expects is to develop real feelings for her, but their liaison awakens a hunger in him that he cannot deny. He kidnaps Jack and brings her to his Amazon jungle colony, but the two lovers are soon embroiled in deadly colony politics and threatened by a looming global species war.

2.  A Long Time Gone by Karen White for review in June.

When Vivien Walker left her home in the Mississippi Delta, she swore never to go back, as generations of the women in her family had. But in the spring, nine years to the day since she’d left, that’s exactly what happens—Vivien returns, fleeing from a broken marriage and her lost dreams for children.

What she hopes to find is solace with “Bootsie,” her dear grandmother who raised her, a Walker woman with a knack for making everything all right. But instead she finds that her grandmother has died and that her estranged mother is drifting further away from her memories. Now Vivien is forced into the unexpected role of caretaker, challenging her personal quest to find the girl she herself once was.

3. Midsummer by Carole Giangrande for a TLC Book Tour in May.

All her life, Joy’s been haunted by a man she’s never met — her visionary grandfather, the artist Lorenzo. At work on digging a New York subway tunnel, his pickaxe struck the remains of an ancient Dutch trading ship — and a vision lit up the underground, convincing him that he was blessed. As it turned out, his children did well in life, and almost a century later, his granddaughter Joy, a gifted linguist, married the Canadian descendant of the lost ship’s captain. Yet nonno’s story also led to the death of Joy’s cousin Leonora, her Aunt Elena’s only child. It was a tragedy that might have been prevented by Joy’s father, Eddie, a man who’s been bruised by life and who seldom speaks to his sister. Yet in the year 2000, he has no choice. Wealthy Aunt Elena and Uncle Carlo are coming from Rome to New York City to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They’ve invited the family to dine at the sky-high tower restaurant above the tunnel where nonno Lorenzo saw his vision long ago.

4.  The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery from the library sale.

The story of two women whose lives intersect in late-nineteenth-century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history—Japan as it opens its doors to the West. It was a period when wearing a different color kimono could make a political statement, when women stopped blackening their teeth to profess an allegiance to Western ideas, and when Japan’s most mysterious rite—the tea ceremony—became not just a sacramental meal, but a ritual battlefield.

We see it all through the eyes of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by the Shin family, proprietors of a tea ceremony school, after their daughter, Yukako, finds her hiding on their grounds. Aurelia becomes Yukako’s closest companion, and they, the Shin family, and all of Japan face a time of great challenges and uncertainty.

5.  Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith from the library sale.

The first is the potential demise of an old friend, her tiny white van. Recently, it has developed a rather troubling knock, but she dare not consult the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for fear he may condemn the vehicle.  Meanwhile, her talented assistant Mma Makutsi is plagued by the reappearance of her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who has taken a job at the Double Comfort Furniture store whose proprietor is none other than Phuti Radiphuti, Mma Makutsi’s fiancé.  Finally, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been hired to explain the unexpected losing streak of a local football club, the Kalahari Swoopers.  But with Mma Ramotswe on the case, it seems certain that everything will be resolved satisfactorily.

6. Rose by Li-Young Lee from the library sale.

In this outstanding first book of poems, Lee is unafraid to show emotion, especially when writing about his father or his wife. “But there is wisdom/ in the hour in which a boy/ sits in his room listening,” says the first poem, and Lee’s silent willingness to step outside himself imbues Rose with a rare sensitivity. The images Lee finds, such as the rose and the apple, are repeated throughout the book, crossing over from his father’s China to his own America. Every word becomes transformative, as even his father’s blindness and death can become beautiful. There is a strong enough technique here to make these poems of interest to an academic audience and enough originality to stun readers who demand alternative style and subject matter.

Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, “Soho Weekly News,” New York

7.  Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich from the library sale.

In this reissue of her seventh volume of poetry, Adrienne Rich searches to reclaim—to discover—what has been forgotten, lost, or unexplored. “I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.” These provocative poems move with the power of Rich’s distinctive voice.

 

8.  Peter Rabbit Jigsaw Puzzle Book by Beatrix Potter from the library sale.

With seven large jigsaw puzzles, this book is a great interactive way to meet Peter Rabbit and his family. Follow Peter, his sisters, and Mrs. Rabbit through a busy day, and build a different nine-piece puzzle on each spread. Puzzle pieces are color-coded, for easy sorting, and the illustrations match the puzzle images, so they can be used for reference. Bright and lively Peter Rabbit Seedlings art is perfect for making puzzles, and this book is sure to be a favorite, providing hours of fun.

9.  Seek and Slide: In the Wild illustrated by Debi Ani from the library sale.

Children will have lots of fun matching the names of wild animals with the correct pictures. The innovative sliding windows and simple seek-and-find challenges make learning an exciting hands-on experience!

What did you receive?