Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?


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?

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 336 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***Beware that this review could contain spoilers as this is the 4th book in the series.***

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White brings Melanie Middleton face-to-face with everything she’s been avoiding — her feelings for Jack Trenholm, the future of 55 Tradd Street, and her pending parenthood — but Melanie still falls back on her trademark effort to avoid tough decisions even when decisions look as if they’ll be made for her.  Her gift has helped her hone her avoidance skills over the years, but as she continues to live and refurbish one of the oldest houses in Charleston — one she inherited from a man she met only once — her skills are put to the test when another body is found on the property.  The infant body bricked up in the foundation of the house raises a lot of questions about the Vanderhorst family tree.

“Pregnancy hormones coupled with a rejected declaration of love and a marriage proposal based on pity had wreaked havoc on my self-confidence and backbone.  I wasn’t sure whether I could ever recover.  Besides I’d lived my life on the premise that if you pretended something wasn’t there it would eventually go away.  At least, it usually worked where dead spirits were concerned.”  (page 5)

Pregnancy can play with anyone’s emotions and confidence, but Melanie is particularly thrown by the uncertainty of the baby’s father’s feelings toward her.  Between her mother, Jack, and Sophie pushing her to face the reality of her pregnancy, Melanie is feeling the pressure.  White brings readers back to the characters they love, and they will still cheer for Melanie to get over herself and accept her feelings for Jack.  This story is a little spookier than the others in the series, but perhaps that’s because it will hit closer to home for mothers and parents.

“I smoothed down the red maternity dress, noticing how it fit much more snugly than when my mother had purchased it for me only a few months before.  I’d resisted wearing it, but it was Nola’s Christmas play and I wanted to look festive.  I wore my mother’s diamond pendant earnings that, according to her, would draw the eye upward, away from my expanding girth.  As I stared at myself in the vestibule mirror, I knew it was like planting flowers in the window boxes of a burned-out house so nobody would notice it needed painting.” (page 220)

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White is engaging, endearing, and enthralling with its mysteries, its pent up tension, and its historical tidbits, and White’s characters are always ready to give you a warm embrace when you need one.  The novel is about letting go of past hurts, embracing our histories as part of who we are today, and moving forward by grabbing a hold of what we want most out of life.

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.

The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

Mailbox Monday #250

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  December’s host is Rose City Reader.

***The Mailbox Monday poll found that most bloggers preferred the Mailbox Monday blog to be the permanent home for the meme beginning in January.***

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston came unexpectedly from the publisher.

In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Bevan, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

2.  Return to Tradd Street by Karen White for review from the publisher.

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

3.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

4.  Taking What I Like by Linda Bamber for review for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Linda Bamber has combined her love of fiction from the past with her propensity to shake things up, taking what she likes and gleefully sharing it with us. As entertaining and contemporary as these stories are, they also remind us what we, too, love about the classic texts she takes apart and reassembles. Bamber’s tales, like the best translations, exist independently while reminding us not to forget the plays and novels they treat. Alternating between admiration and attitude, the stories layer their plots with commentary, history, and politics, pausing as they build only to make room for the sanity and wit of the authorial voice. Emotional and genuine, these stories are also playful, inventive, and hilariously funny. From her long study of the Bard, Bamber has absorbed some of Shakespeare’s own empathy, understanding, and expressive flair. It is not too much to say that her work takes its place in the same literary sphere as the works it engages.

5.  Pieces of the Heart by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

To escape the stress from her all-consuming job as an accountant, Caroline Collier joins her overbearing mother at the family’s vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina. But the serene beauty of Lake Ophelia cannot heal Caroline’s heart, which is still broken by the loss of her younger brother, who died when she was seventeen. And the tension between her and her mother still simmers. Only their neighbors, the husband and daughter of one of Caroline’s childhood friends, seem able to penetrate her cool reserve, giving Caroline the courage to face her biggest fears-and dive headfirst into life.

6.  The Color of Light by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

With a lyrical Southern voice, White delivers an emotionally moving novel of a woman in search of a new beginning and a man haunted by the past.At thirty-two, pregnant and recently divorced, Jillian Parrish and her seven-year-old daughter find refuge and solace on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Jillian had experienced her best childhood memories here-until her best friend Lauren Mills disappeared, never to be found. At the time, Linc Rising, Lauren’s boyfriend and Jillian’s confidant, had been a suspect in Lauren’s disappearance. Now he’s back on Pawleys Island-renovating the old Mills house. And as ghosts of the past are resurrected, and Jillian’s daughter begins having eerie conversations with an imaginary friend named Lauren, Jillian and Linc will uncover the truth about Lauren’s disappearance and about the feelings they have buried for sixteen years.

7.  Still Love in Strange Places by Beth Kephart from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

When Beth Kephart met and fell in love with the artist who would become her husband, she had little knowledge of the place he came from—an exotic coffee farm high in the jungle hills of El Salvador, a place of terrifying myths and even more frightening realities, of civil war and devastating earthquakes. Yet, marriage, she finds, means taking in not only the stranger who is one’s lover but also a stranger’s history—in this case, a country, language, people, and culture utterly foreign to a young American woman. Kephart’s transcendently lyrical prose (often compared to the work of Annie Dillard) has already made her a National Book Award finalist. In each of her memoirs she has written about love, using her own life to seek out universal truths.

8.   Books and Reading: A Book of Quotations edited by Bill Bradfield from my SantaThing from LibraryThing.

Over 450 memorable quotes about books and reading from writers, political figures, and celebrities. With provocative declarations from John Keats, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, James Thurber, and Oprah Winfrey, among others. A handy aid for speech writers and public speakers, this entertaining collection will delight anyone who loves books.

9.  The Descent by Alma Katsu for review from the publisher.

Lanore McIlvrae has been on the run from Adair for hundreds of years, dismayed by his mysterious powers and afraid of his temper. She betrayed Adair’s trust and imprisoned him behind a stone wall to save Jonathan, the love of her life. When Adair was freed 200 years later, she was sure that he would find her and make her existence a living hell. But things turned out far different than she’d imagined.

Four years later, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home, where he has been living in self-imposed exile, to ask for a favor. She wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so she may beg the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan, whom she has been keeping as her consort. Will Lanore honor her promise to Adair to return? Or is her intention to reunite with Jonathan at any cost?

What did you receive?

The Time Between by Karen White

Source: Borrowed from Diary of an Eccentric
Hardcover, 352 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Time Between by Karen White is undulating between the past and present of Eleanor Murray and Helena Szarka’s lives as they find they have more in common than how they feel the piano music they play.  Eleanor and her sister Eve’s relationship was severed by a childhood prank that festered and paralyzed them both, while Helena is an aging woman who has been close to death more than once.  As Helena delves into the deep secrets Eleanor is keeping, Eleanor does the same behind closed doors.  White balances the WWII past with the present beautifully, crafting a novel that juxtaposes the past and the present in a way that uncovers how second chances can be easily missed or taken by the horns.

“She taught us that building baskets was like building a life, finding materials from different places–bits and pieces with their own purpose–and creating a vessel that could pour out or keep in.  I thought about this now, driving to Edisto, wondering what sort of basket my life would be and what it would be named.”  (page 67 ARC)

Caring for the aging Helena for her boss, Finn, Eleanor begins to reconnect with the past she has forgotten and the dreams she once had, but at the same time she’s struggling to reconcile the spark of dreams rekindled with the harrowing guilt of her past.  Like Helena, the guilt has weighed Eleanor down so heavily to the point at which she cannot move without the approval of her conscience.  She has set aside her life in favor of other’s needs and they have let her because of their own guilt and shame, as Helena has done for more than 50 years.  White brings Charleston and Edisto to life, immersing the reader into the marshes, the salt spray, and the wildness of town life.

She brings about the juxtaposition of Charleston’s upper crust life and the busy go-go-go of business with the quieter, lulling music of nature and sea life on Edisto.  Eleanor is not awakened by the busy life of Charleston in Finn’s firm, but by the sedate musicality of the rivers and ocean and the not-so-gentled prodding of Helena.  White has created multi-faceted characters who have real fears and guilt, and these women will burrow into readers hearts, twist them up and wring out so many emotions.

The Time Between by Karen White is stunning in its historical scope and its emotional scale.  As Eleanor and Eve learn about forgiveness and rekindling their connection, Helena learns to loosen her grip on her terrifying past and let go.  Both must forgive and be forgiven, and as they learn to move beyond their pasts, it becomes easier for them to see doors that open to new opportunities.  White is one of the best writers today, and each of her stories transports readers beyond themselves and into the lives of her characters, ensuring they become indelible.

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.

Also check out my reviews of The House on Tradd Street, The Girl on Legare Street, The Beach Trees, After the Rain, Sea Change, and On Folly Beach.

After the Rain by Karen White

After the Rain by Karen White is a republished and remastered novel that is full of twists and turns, touches lightly on the desolation of a broken family life and the darkness people can fall into as a result, and the hope that just might be around the corner.  Suzanne Paris is on a bus to Atlanta when she decides on a whim to get off in Walton, Ga., where she meets a large family and finds the home she’s been looking for all of her life.  But with the sun comes rain.  And there is a deluge of it in this book.

Suzanne has a past that is not far behind her, even as her freelance photography job takes her to many places.  She’s running from a life and for her life, and White has created a character who is both likeable and unlikeable.  She keeps secrets even from those know care for her, and her ability to trust others is very tenuous and easily broken by the wrong word or action, which White captures easily in her imagery.  From how she’s described by the muscular, hot mayor Joe Warner — who also teaches at the high school and coaches football — to how Suzanne pauses before answering questions about her past, readers will find a character who is taken in slowly by the small town and its residents but frightened of how her own past could harm them.

“Tides change.  So does the moon.  With the unfailing constancy of brittle autumn closing in on bright summer, things always changed.  If Suzanne had ever had faith in anything, it was in knowing that all things were fleeting.  And for good reason.  The highway of life was littered with the roadkill of those who didn’t know when to change lanes.”  (Page 1)

While things can be fleeting in life, there are things that are ever-lasting, and in this case, White talks about the support systems that we can have within our own families.  Whether those families are the ones we are born into or the ones we fall into or create out of friends and husbands and our own children, they are there to love and support us unconditionally.  Suzanne has a lot of lessons to learn, but the slow unraveling of her fears and her heart is endearing.  In many ways, though she’s an adult, she’s like a child being led into the life she’s always wanted.

“‘Amanda! You quit right now or I’m gonna jar your preserves!'”  (Page 5)

Photography plays a large role in the novel, and Suzanne not only takes photos of the people in Walton but also finds that she’s become a part of the town’s tapestry as she weaves parts of herself into the photos she takes.  Even more poignant, she connects with teenage Maddie when she shares with her the techniques a budding photographer needs to learn that are not necessarily taught in art classes.  After the Rain also offers readers that down-home southern feel that all of White’s novels have — from the caring strangers to the idioms that make the place its own.  There are moments when readers will want to strangle Suzanne for her decisions, and some events are easy to see coming, but the way White writes these characters and their story endears them to readers and ensures their love and struggles will never be forgotten.

Mailbox Monday #205

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Suko’s Notebook.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  After the Rain by Karen White for review in January.

Freelance photographer Suzanne Paris has been on her own since she was fourteen—and she has no intention of settling down, especially not in a tiny town like Walton, Georgia. She’s here to hide out for a little while, not to form connections. Her survival depends on her ability to slip in and out of people’s lives, on never staying in one place for too long.

But no one in Walton plans on making things easy for Suzanne. For one thing, it’s a town where everyone knows everyone else—and they all seem intent on making Suzanne feel right at home. For another, Suzanne can’t help but feel drawn to this tight-knit community—or to the town’s mayor, Joe Warner, and his six kids. But Suzanne can’t afford to stick around, even if she’s finally found a place where she belongs. Because someone is looking for her—someone who won’t stop until her life is destroyed.

2. A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver, which came via SantaThing.

In A THOUSAND MORNINGS, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has come to define her life’s work, transporting us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. In these pages, Oliver shares the wonder of dawn, the grace of animals, and the transformative power of attention. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her adored dog, Percy, she is ever patient in her observations and open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments.

3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, which came via SantaThing.

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. Profoundly moving and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.

4. The Ingredients of Love by Nicholas Barreau, unexpectedly from the publisher.

Cyrano de Bergerac meets Chocolat and Amélie in this intelligent, charming, and entertaining publishing sensation from Europe.
While in the midst of a breakup-induced depression, Aurélie Bredin, a beautiful Parisian restaurateur, discovers an astonishing novel in a quaint bookshop on the Ile Saint-Louis. Inexplicably, her restaurant and Aurélie herself are featured in its pages. After reading the whole book in one night, she realizes it has saved her life—and she wishes more than anything to meet its author. Aurélie’s attempts to contact the attractive but shy English author through his French publishers are blocked by the company’s gruff chief editor, André, who only with great reluctance forwards Aurélie’s enthusiastic letter. But Aurélie refuses to give up. One day, a response from the reclusive author actually lands in her mailbox, but the encounter that eventually takes place is completely different from what she had ever imagined. . . . Filled with books, recipes, and characters that leap off the page, The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau is a tribute to the City of Light.

5. Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield for review in February.

Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp.

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever…and spur her to sins of her own.

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, which was from our book club gift exchange.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity–principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

What did you receive?

Thoughts Provoked….

This is unusual, but while reading Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb, I came across this passage:

“By nine o’clock they were all sitting in a caleche and driving slowly through the crowded streets.  The white walls of the buildings, designed to keep the heat at bay, were blinding in the sun.  Every few minutes they came upon a market square, with tiny stalls set up wherever there was a space.  People shouted in shrill tones, advertising their wares, and all four travelers were entranced by the flowing white robes and rolled up headdress worn by the men.  Donkeys brayed on every corner and each time they stopped, small boys appeared as if from nowhere entreating them to buy sticky brown dates and succulent figs.”  (page 130 ARC)

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media, and in particular Twitter.  This particular passage of the sellers crowding a singular space and boys coming from out of no where shouting about their wares and offerings reminded me of the cacophony of Twitter.  For whatever reason, I’ve lately become weary of the hours I spend on social media and wondering whether it even gets the word out there about the truly wonderful books I read and whether there is a more effective way to accomplish this goal, particularly for poetry.

It seems that there is a stream of reviews, giveaways, comments, and other items that clog up the Twitter timeline and even if I spent all hours of the day on the Web, my tweets about poets, readings, and books would be lost in the loud morass.  I feel as though I am shouting at passersby about the books I read and the poets I love and the readings I attend, but to no avail.  They do not know me, they do not (most likely) read my blog, so why would they care what I have to say?

Hand-selling books at a bookstore and chatting with readers is what I miss.  There is an intimate connection you make with fellow readers browsing a bookstore, especially when they pick up a book off the shelf that you’ve loved.  This was never more evident to me than when I attended a recent book signing in Boonsboro when I chatted with other ladies in line about their books and why they love them.  It was good to talk about Karen White’s books with people who had never heard of her and to see them light up when I told them about her books — the one’s I’ve read and the one’s I’ve yet to read — and how its a new world and adventure every time I open those pages.  Some people I talked to immediately picked up a copy of Sea Change, while others picked up Beach Trees.

What does all this mean for me and social media?  I’m not sure, but I’m likely to mull over my presence on Twitter more and to think of better ways to use my time there.  What are your thoughts?

Karen White Comes to Maryland

I found out that Karen White would be in Boonsboro, Md., at Turn the Page Bookstore, which has a couple of famous authors — Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb — filling the shelves.  Roberts’ husband owns the store, and her son owns the pizzeria and Italian restaurant Vesta.  Yes, in the 100-degree weather, the hubby, girl, father-in-law, and I piled into the Honda and headed north, promptly got lost, but found our way again.  Drove winding roads near farms and woods to reach Boonsboro, which is a quaint little town, with very little downtown for men to do.

Turn the Page

We found Turn the Page Bookstore really easily after following the directions past the traffic light.  It was after 10 AM, which was the start time for handing out the signing tickets, but I was able to still get one and be in Group E, which they told me would begin lining up at 1 PM.  I was definitely disappointed that it was only a signing and not a reading with a question-and-answer period, plus signing, but I also hadn’t realized there would be about seven authors present signing their books that day.  I also learned that you could only get books signed that you bought from the bookstore, and I’m glad that I decided I didn’t feel like lugging all 7 of my Karen White books up to Boonsboro.  I bought my mom a copy of the book, Sea Change (my review), and got it signed for her, along with the copy I already had.

We took a walk up the main road and back and checked out a local park.  Finally, we had a bit of coffee and cookies, plus some of the best Sweet Tea ever at Icing Bakery & Cafe.  Sitting out in the heat was not a great plan, so after realizing that the wait would be awhile for me, since I was group E, the little one, daddy, and grandpa headed back to the car with the air conditioning.

Meanwhile, I waited outside until about 10 minutes before 1 PM and walked into the store to find out that they were only on Group D! There is no central air in the main store, but there were fans and I found a bunch of Group E members waiting in what we called the “holding pen.”  We had some good chats about how none of us knew there were more than one author at the signing until we got to the bookstore.

It was interesting to learn about what others found so engaging about the authors they were there to see, and of course, I was talking up Karen White to everyone and even hand-sold a few copies while in line waiting.  After what seemed like an eternity, there was light at the end of the tunnel; and after nearly passing out a few times, the central air conditioning was found.

Crowd of bookish fiends

One of the ladies in line makes her own jewelry, even out of old silverware, and she has her own little online Website that she’s still working on.  I wished her luck crafting her jewelry.

And I finally got to meet Karen!  She was extremely forgiving because as you all know I’m an incredible klutz and spilled water on her when we went to have our picture taken.  She said that at least it was mostly on the table and a little on her and NOT on the books!  Too gracious!  I thank her for that entirely!  I was so embarrassed!  (See Karen, I totally own up to my foibles!)  Anyway, I will leave you with our photos!

Serena & Karen White

Karen White & Savvy Verse & Wit