Sea Change by Karen White

Sea Change by Karen White is told from the alternating points of view from three women — Ava, Gloria, and Pamela — who each hold secrets close and family closer.  Ava is a midwife who is impulsive and marries a man, Matthew Frazier, she knows little about and moves from her hometown and family to St. Simons Island, Georgia.  Gloria, Ava’s mother, has secrets that she barely acknowledges in the presence of her mother, Mimi, and has never told Ava.  Meanwhile, Pamela Frazier is a midwife from the 1800s who allegedly ran off with a British Army man, leaving her husband and son behind and whom the community branded a traitor and erased from history.

“Storms bring the detritus of other people’s lives into our own, a reminder that we are not alone, and of how truly insignificant we are.  The indiscriminating waves had brutalized the shore, tossing pieces of splintered timber, an intact china teacup, and a gentleman’s watch — still with its cover and chain — onto my beloved beach, each coming to rest as if placed gently in the sand as a shopkeeper would display his wares.  As I rubbed my thumb over the smooth lip of the china cup, I thought of how someone’s loss had become my gain, of how the tide would roll in and out again as if nothing had changed, and how sometimes the separation between endings and beginnings is so small that they seem to run together like the ocean’s waves.”  (Page 1)

White creates multifaceted characters with real problems and sometimes places them in surreal circumstances, including worlds in which ghosts exist and past lives are possibilities.  Ava is the only daughter in a family full of older brothers, and she escapes into the arms of Matthew to feel free and to roam as she chooses, but is her love for him real or contrived and will their relationship last even as the past surfaces to reveal some ugly secrets about him and his ancestors.  White uses water imagery in a way that connects the idea that a circle never begins or ends, but continues endlessly — forever — in a way that demonstrates the power of love and devotion to family.

There are intricate details in this novel that connect not only Ava and Matthew, but also some secondary characters, like Tish — the local florist.  White easily weaves in these details among the finer setting elements, ensuring that the island itself becomes a character in her novel about changes and the current beneath that connects everything.

“And in the moment before I closed my eyes, the flashlight caught on the corner of the wall by the stairs, where kudzu vines had begun to work themselves into a crack along the wall, climbing upward like a spider, relentless in its advance, lie the doubt that crept around my skull and took root in my chest where my heart beat.”  (Page 128)

While White’s characters are strong, particularly the women, Matthew is more of a stand in, the logic and realism that anchors the story.  He’s note as deep as White’s other characters, though this also is likely due to the drawback of having the present day sections told by Ava and Gloria and readers can only see him through their interactions with him.  Readers may not only find him distant and enigmatic, but a character too stuck in the past and not caring enough toward his wife, Ava.  As suspicions pile up around him, his behavior becomes more bizarre and he becomes more distant from Ava.

Sea Change by Karen White is like the ocean waves undulating against the shore, eroding away the beach of lies and half-truths that cover the reality beneath — the truth of Ava and Gloria’s lives and the mystery of Matthew’s ancestors.  Readers will discover that the lull of the rocking ocean waves can be easily churned into a roaring storm tossed seascape, but once the storm has subsided, there will be nothing left by hope.

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, and On Folly Beach.

Mailbox Monday #177

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 Martha’s Bookshelf.

Both of these memes allow 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 last week:

1.  The Subject Tonight Is Love by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky from last week’s library sale.

To Persians, the fourteenth-century poems of Hafiz are not classical literature from a remote past, but cherished love, wisdom, and humor from a dear and intimate friend. Perhaps, more than any other Persian poet, it is Hafiz who most fully accesses the mystical, healing dimensions of poetry. Daniel Ladinsky has made it his life’s work to create modern, inspired translations of the world’s most profound spiritual poetry. Through Ladinsky’s translations, Hafiz’s voice comes alive across the centuries singing his message of love.

2.  The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer, which was also from the library sale for my mother.

From the bestselling author of Between Husbands and Friends and An Act of Love comes a wise, wonderful, and delightfully witty “coming of age” novel about four intrepid women who discover themselves as they were truly meant to be: passionate, alive, and ready to face the best years of their lives.

Meet Faye, Marilyn, Alice, and Shirley. Four women with skills, smarts, and secrets—all feeling over the hill and out of the race. But in a moment of delicious serendipity, they meet and realize they share more than raging hormones and lost dreams. Now as the Hot Flash Club, where the topics of motherhood, sex, and men are discussed with double servings of chocolate cake, they vow to help each other . . . and themselves.

3.  The Wonder of It All by Elizabeth P. Glixman from the poet for review.

4.  Sea Change by Karen White for review in June from the publisher.

For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-five, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier, and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia.

But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

5. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian for review from Random House.

The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian’s Armenian heritage.

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

6. Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen from the publisher/author for review.

High-school sweethearts Julia and Michael have left their humble West Virginia roots far behind for a glamorous life in Washington, D.C. As they achieve more in their careers—she as a high-end events planner, he as the CEO of his own sports-drink company—they lose themselves as a couple. After Michael has a near-death experience, he decides to give away all their wealth and focus on his relationship with Julia. But she’s not ready to forgive him for choosing his work over her when she needed him most. Pekkanen’s novel traces the couple’s attempts to make amends for allowing success to replace love.

7. These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen from the publisher/author for review.

Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance.

Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated.

Her roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger.

Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby—or why she left everything she once loved behind.

8. The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner from the publisher for review.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

9. The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy, which I bought at the Gaithersburg Book Festival and had her sign!

It is 1961 and Puerto Rico is trapped in a tug-of-war between those who want to stay connected to the United States and those who are fighting for independence. For eleven-year-old Verdita Ortiz-Santiago, the struggle for independence is a battle fought much closer to home.

Verdita has always been safe and secure in her sleepy mountain town, far from the excitement of the capital city of San Juan or the glittering shores of the United States, where her older cousin lives. She will be a señorita soon, which, as her mother reminds her, means that she will be expected to cook and clean, go to Mass every day, choose arroz con pollo over hamburguesas, and give up her love for Elvis. And yet, as much as Verdita longs to escape this seemingly inevitable future and become a blond American bombshell, she is still a young girl who is scared by late-night stories of the chupacabra, who wishes her mother would still rub her back and sing her a lullaby, and who is both ashamed and exhilarated by her changing body.

Told in luminous prose spanning two years in Verdita’s life, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico is much more than a story about getting older. In the tradition of The House on Mango Street and Annie John, it is about the struggle to break free from the people who have raised us, and about the difficulties of leaving behind one’s homeland for places unknown. At times joyous and at times heartbreaking, Verdita’s story is of a young girl discovering her power and finding the strength to decide what sort of woman she’ll become.

10. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith from BookCrossing at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fianc?’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

11. Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs from BookCrossing at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Among the ancient remains in a Native American burial ground, Tempe discovers a fresh skeleton — and what began as an ordinary teaching stint at an archeology field school in Charleston, South Carolina, fast becomes a heated investigation into an alarming pattern of homicides. The clues hidden in the bones lead to a street clinic where a monstrous discovery awaits, and Tempe — whose personal life is in upheaval, with two men competing for her — can’t afford any distractions as she pieces together a shattering and terrifying puzzle.

What did you receive?

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White combines historical mystery with romance, drama, and Southern hospitality, like all of the other books in the series, reuniting readers with Jack Trenholm — famous author — and Melanie Middleton — real estate agent for historic Charleston homes and resident, if reluctant, ghost whisperer.  Melanie can be whiny and she can grate on readers nerves with her penchant for denying her feelings for Jack and her rocky relationship with her parents.

However, in the latest installment, readers are introduced to a more evolved Mellie, a woman who can relate to a angsty and sarcastic teen girl who shows up unannounced and claims to be Jack’s long-lost daughter, Nola.  Melanie can’t help but see herself in Nola, and a maternal instinct she never knew she had rises to the surface.

“He looked better than the last time I’d seen him, and I wondered whether it was because he didn’t have the daily stress of dealing with a teenager to age him.  Still, there was something in his eyes that didn’t quite match his usual self-assured Jack-ness.” (Page 73 ARC)

White has carefully crafted this story, meshing the Nola storyline with that of the ghost mystery on Montagu Street.  As always, Marc Longo is back and more underhanded than ever, and even Mellie’s cousin and Jack’s sometime girlfriend, Rebecca comes and stir things up.  In addition, it looks like there is more restoration work to eat through Melanie’s budget as the foundation needs repairs, and did I mention she’s feeling her age — especially as her mother and Nola help to remind her how old she’s getting?

White’s humor is subtle at times and at others it’s quite obvious, but what is most engaging is her characterizations and how different and real each feels to the reader.  The Strangers on Montagu Street is the third book in the series, but it may not be necessary to read the other two before reading this one as the mystery stands alone, though if readers prefer to know the past struggles between Mellie and Jack it would be better to read the previous two.  White’s Tradd Street series is a cozy and perfect for holiday reading.

Of the three in the series, this is my favorite and since White has left me hanging at the outcome between Mellie and Jack’s latest entanglement, you can bet I’ll be reading the next one.

Reviews of White’s other books:

The House on Tradd Street (first book in the series)
The Girl on Legare Street (second book in the series)
On Folly Beach
The Beach Trees

I’m Hosting Mailbox Monday #148

First, I would like to congratulate (Bibliophile by the Sea) on winning Where Am I Going by Michelle Cromer from the last Mailbox Monday giveaway.

Stay tuned for the next giveaway later on in the post, but for now, let’s get to this week’s post.

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. Thanks to Amused by Booksfor hosting last month.

As host for this month, I have a couple giveaways planned, but mostly its about sharing books and the love of reading, so I hope in addition to leaving your post links in Mr. Linky that you’ll peek around Savvy Verse & Wit.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow 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 this week:

1.  The Time in Between by Maria Duenas for review (my second copy, look for a giveaway with the review)

2.   Twilight The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  The Giver by Lois Lowry from the library sale for my daughter and myself

4.  The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis from the library sale for my daughter

5.  Who Am I? by Sesame Street from the library sale for my daughter

6.  Silly Sally by Audrey Wood for my daughter from the library sale

7. The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis for review for TLC Book Tours in early November.

8. The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White for review in November.

9. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems by Emma Eden Ramos for review.

10. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram for review.

11. Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison for review.

12. A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead for a TLC Book Tour at the end of November.

What books did you receive this week?  Please leave your link below to your mailbox.

Now, for the giveaway for the week.  I’m holding an international giveaway for Waking by Ron Rash.  Deadline to enter is Oct. 22, 2011.

I reviewed the book earlier in the month and is my first experience with Rash’s work.  Have you read other Ron Rash books, if so which one and should I read it?

I also posted a poem from the collection in the Virtual Poetry Circle.

Please leave a comment if you are interested in this book.

The Beach Trees by Karen White

Karen White always crafts novels that are full of engaging characters and intricate story lines, and The Beach Trees is no exception.  Shifting from the present to the past and between two first person accounts, the novel tells the tale of rebirth and rebuilding.  Set in the South — New Orleans and Biloxi — Julie Holt and Aimee Guidry’s stories are told in tandem and are more entwined than readers first think as a mystery is solved.

From the disappearance of Monica, Aimee’s granddaughter, to the disappearance of Caroline Guidry many years before, White crafts a unique story of family, love, and forgiveness.  Both stories are riveting and filled with mystery, which readers will have to sweep aside the sand to uncover.

“When we got closer to the memorial I could see a curved cement wall with a mosaic wave in the center of it rolling from one end to the other.  At the far end sat a taller wall of black granite, columns of names marching in block letters under the word KATRINA and the date August 29, 2005.  A glass case filled with small objects protruded from the marble wall, its base filled with empty oyster shells.

‘What is this,’ I asked, leaning forward to study the sun-bleached artifacts:  a broken china plate, a ceramic angel, a trophy, a police badge, an American flag folded neatly as if unaware of its position over a pile of rubble.

‘That’s debris found after the hurricane.  . . . ‘” (page 150-1)

New Orleans was plunged into the depths of the ocean by Katrina’s storm surge, and like the city these two families — the Holts and the Guidrys — are unmoored, drifting toward one another in the search for more than just shelter, but for a home and connections.  Aimee’s story unfolds piece-by-piece as she tells it to Julie, who decides to stay in the city and Biloxi to fulfill the dying wish of her friend.  In addition to the haunting images of Katrina’s devastation, White incorporates the more recent toxicity brought on by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which coated numerous miles of coast and created yet another disheartening chapter in the city’s history.  However, like its people, the city continues to rise from the ashes much stronger than before.

The Beach Trees brings to life not only the main characters in the novel, but the southern setting, ensuring that its scars and healing are intertwined with that of White’s characters.  She has created a story of rebirth and perseverance.  Through alternating points of view, White draws connections between Aimee and Julie using emotion and setting in a way that too few authors can accomplish.  With deft hand, she has created an emotionally charged narrative that takes on a life of its own.

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, and On Folly Beach.

Check out the other stops on the TLC Book Tour by clicking the image.

Peering Through My Window by Karen White

I hope everyone enjoyed my review of Karen White’s On Folly Beach yesterday.  I’ve really enjoyed all of her books, which you can find reviews of the Tradd Street Series, here and here.

Today, I have a real treat for you.  Karen is going to take us on a journey through her writing space.  Please give her a warm welcome.

In the days when I was a young and blissfully naïve reader, I imagined my favorite authors (Victoria Holt, Katherine Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Susan Howatch) creating the books I loved to read.  I had a fuzzy picture of them relaxing on chaise lounges, wearing feather boas and either dictating each word to a handsome stenographer or slowly pecking away on a manual typewriter in a glamorous office as seen in the movies.

And then I became a writer (imagine old-fashioned needle screeching across vinyl record).

For the record, I don’t own a boa, feathered or otherwise.  Nor do I have a handsome stenographer (or a pool boy).  I’m a working writer, emphasis on the working part.  I haven’t calculated how many hours each day I work—but I get up at 6:15 each morning and go to sleep around midnight and I’m usually filling quite a lot of those hours in between either writing or editing, or attending to the non-writing parts of my career:  fan mail, Facebook, website, pre-publication planning, mailings, back and forth contact with editor, agent, publicist, book club visits etc.  I also work seven days a week because besides all of the above, I’m also a wife and mother and SOMEBODY has to do the laundry and feed the dog!

When I was asked to send a picture of my workspace, I was so tempted to send a picture of my laundry room.  I’ve joked (semi-seriously) about setting up a desk in there to spare me the trouble of walking down the hall fifteen times a day.  But I digress.

I actually have several work spaces.  I have an office on the main floor of my house where I have all my files and books and my desktop computer.  This is where I do the non-creative parts of my job.  There’s a door in this room that leads to the driveway—very convenient since my dog, Quincy, likes to go in and out about one thousand times a day and having the door so convenient to my desk makes the trek back and forth to the door easier for me.  I’m currently working with a professional organizer to organize all of my research books on the large bookshelves on the long wall of the office (which is why everything looks a mess—I’ve just yanked off and donated about 100 books).

Supposedly, this office is supposed to be off limits to other members of the household (except for Quincy).  My husband has his own office, and the kids have a bonus room upstairs with their own computer.  But everybody still uses mine.  Sigh.

For my creative writing, I use the large chair and ottoman up in my sitting room.  I have a fireplace for when it’s cold (I turn it on with a switch <g>), I have a mini-fridge for my Diet Dr. Pepper (I’m addicted), and a little bar area for my coffee maker.  My bookshelves on both sides of the fireplace are for my keeper books and books I’ve not yet read, and the small black bookshelf next to my chair is for the reference books for my current work-in-progress.  Right now they’re filled with books about Charleston, its gardens, houses, and ghosts since I’m working on book three in my Tradd Street mystery series.

Please note the wideness of the chair.  I had a smaller chair but my writing companion (aka Velcro Dog) couldn’t fit in it with me.  Since he insists on pressing against my side while I write, I had to accommodate him by buying a larger chair.  Sigh.  I guess being always in my sight is the reason why I’ve written him into the Tradd Street series as the protagonist’s dog, General Lee.

When the weather is nice (and the pollen is gone—we had a pollen count of 6,000 last week here in Atlanta so not quite yet), I love to sit out on my screened-in porch.  It’s almost as long as the width of the house and looks out over our back yard (we’re three stories up since we live on a hill and on about an acre) and the horse pasture behind us.  I’ve got a bird feeder, stereo speakers, ceiling fans, and quick access to the kitchen—pretty much the perfect setup for a writer and her laptop.  And her dog.  When the temperature gets too high (which it does since I live in Georgia) I move back indoors to my writing chair in my sitting room.  With my dog who doesn’t like the heat either.

It’s not glamorous or exotic.  Especially since when I’m at home writing I dress like a candidate for What Not to Wear.  Notice how I didn’t share any pictures of me actually writing. But it gets the job done.  I suppose it’s because when I’m writing I’m transported to a completely different place altogether where it doesn’t really matter what’s around me.

Maybe I should get that desk in my laundry room after all.

Thanks, Karen, for showing us your writing space.

I had a feeling that General Lee was your dog when I saw the photo of Quincy!  I hate to disagree, but those writing spaces look gorgeous and exotic to me, though I live in a tiny apartment!

If you’ve missed the giveaway for 2 copies of On Folly Beach for readers in the US/Canada, go here.

On Folly Beach by Karen White

Karen White‘s On Folly Beach shifts between two time periods — 2009 and 1942 — and between two women’s lives — Emmy Hamilton and Lulu.  Emmy lost her husband six months ago to the war in Afghanistan and loves solving mysteries with old documents and books, and Lulu is a complicated older woman with a lot of secrets and a penchant for bottle tree artistry.

“The shirt was a poor substitute for his arms, and wearing it in Ben’s absence was something her mother had told her was like swimming with a raincoat.”  (page 2)

Emmy is empty in her grief and unwilling to move on, but her mother convinces her to move from Indiana to South Carolina and buy a bookstore, Folly’s Finds, which served as the model for her mother’s bookstore.  Once in her newly rented house, she meets Lulu, her grandson Heath, Heath’s mother Abigail, and the rest of the family.  But her journey begins with a box of old books, and she strives to unravel the mystery of two star-crossed lovers.  Emmy has a journey back to the living to embark upon as well.

“‘Like right now? Don’t you need a bathing suit?’

He smiled and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes reminded Emmy of his mother.  ‘Don’t need one.’  He walked past her, then stopped when he realized she wasn’t following him.

‘I’ll wait here.’

“I’ll keep my shorts on, promise.'”  (page 129)

White’s characters have their own personalities and evolve carefully over the alternating chapters.  The WWII chapters transport readers back in time, making the fear of war as vivid as the dances on the ocean pier.  But with the prevalence of chapters in the present, it is clear that this is Emmy and Lulu’s story. Emmy becomes the amateur detective that Lulu played when she was a young girl living with her sister, Maggie and cousin Cat.

On Folly Beach by Karen White uses a variety of water and wind imagery to mimic the foolish choices made by the main characters and mirror the dramatic choices that they make out of loyalty and love.  White creates dynamic characters who are deeply flawed and who are in search of peace and love, like many of us.  Bibliophiles will enjoy the literary references, the characters named for Elizabeth Bennet and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, and the quotes in the margins.  Another Karen White novel that engages, mystifies, and satisfies readers as they unwind the puzzles of On Folly Beach.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the tour. And check back tomorrow for a guest post on Karen White’s writing space.

About the Author:

Karen’s novel The Memory of Water was a WXIA-TV Atlanta & Company Book Club Selection. Her work has been reviewed in Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, the Atlanta  Journal-Constitution, and by Fresh Fiction, among many others, and has been adopted by numerous independent booksellers for book club recommendations. Last year her 2007 novel Learning to Breathe received several honors, notably the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Booksellers’ Best Award, which in 2009 was again presented to Karen, this time for The Memory of Water.

US/Canada Giveaway for 2 copies of On Folly Beach by Karen White:

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period fascinates you and why.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link.

Deadline May 20, 2010, at 11:59PM EST.

Examiner Interviews & Poetry Gift Ideas

It seems that I’m behind in alerting you to my latest interviews and articles at D.C. Literature Examiner.  Better late than never, I say.

First for all you last minute shoppers, I have a list of poetry books that will meet the needs of a variety of family members and friends in your social circles.  I cannot recommend these titles enough.

Here’s the latest interviews:

I’ve interviewed Karen White about her latest novel in the gothic, Southern, mystery series The Girl on Legare Street.  Check it out here and here.

We talk about her book and her reading and writing habits.

Beth Kephart, which I’m sure many of you have heard about from Amy at My Friend Amy and other blogs, graciously submitted to my questions.  We talk about Nothing But Ghosts, her writing, reading, and young adult fiction.  Check out the interview here and here.

I hope you’ll be checking them out in your down time.  Have a great holiday everyone!

Interview With Karen White

I recently had an opportunity to interview Karen White, author of The Girl on Legare Street, for the D.C. Literature Examiner.  It will be another two part interview.

If you are interested in my review of her book, The Girl on Legare Street, check it out.

You also can check out my review of The House on Tradd Street and her guest post about writing.

Ok, really what you want are the links to my interview with her, so here you go — part one and part two.  I hope you enjoy them!  Leave a comment, sign up for email alerts when new interviews are posted, and become a subscriber.

Karen White on Writing

Karen White recently published The Girl on Legare Street (click for my review).  And she graciously agreed to compose a guest post about her writing habits and routines.  

Please give her a warm welcome.

      I just yelled at my husband for stepping on a pile of papers on the floor in front of the printer.  Our brand new printer isn’t working and he’s checking the serial number so when he calls India for technical support, they’ll know which model we’re discussing.  That kind of made me laugh because I’m supposed to be writing about my organizational methods when writing a novel, and a pile in front of the printer doesn’t bode well.

      In real life, I’m pretty much of a neatnik.  In fact, friends and family have compared me to the anal-retentive and super-organized protagonist Melanie Middleton in my book The House on Tradd Street and the sequel (November 2009), The Girl on Legare Street..  I actually think that’s a compliment.  I’m the mother of two teenagers with a dog, a guinea pig, and a husband who travels all the time–and I’m in charge of all things minute.  Everything is scheduled on my Palm Pilot–I even have an alarm set every month to remind me when to give the dog his heartworm and flea medication.  I do laundry every Thursday without fail, and grocery shop every Sunday.

      But somehow, all bets are off when I write a book.  I don’t outline.  I don’t do heavy plotting.  I don’t do character sketches.  In fact, it’s not all that unusual for me to not know exactly how the book ends when I start.  

      When I get a story germ that I think is good enough for a book, I don’t write it down.  I let it stew and simmer into something bigger–usually a couple of months or more.  I’ve found that if I write it down–or worse, tell somebody about it–it grows stale.  Then after the idea has finished simmering (or when I realize how close my deadline is and I need to get started) I sit down and start to write the first three chapters.  I don’t write in drafts, but clean up as I go so that by the time I’m finished writing, it’s pretty much a clean copy.

      However, with writing two big books each year for the last two years, I’ve refined the process.  It’s what I call my ‘soldiers and generals’ technique.  My first go of my chapter I’m the general looking at the big picture and deciding what needs to be done.  I put the bones of the story down, setting the scene, moving the characters around.  Then I send in my soldiers on the second pass–I add the pretty stuff like descriptions and emotions.  Sort of like adding flesh and hair to a skeleton.  That way I don’t obsess as I sit down to write–I just get the story down.  Then I can relax and have fun with it–sort of like Michelangelo and a block of marble.

      To go to contract, my publisher requires some sort of synopsis so, after writing the first few chapters, I jot down my ideas for the book and turn it in.  Luckily, I’m at the point in my career where my editor (who should be sainted) realizes that my book will bear little resemblance to the synopsis.  Because after I turn that synopsis in, I don’t look at it again.  I’m driven by the characters and their story, and whatever unfolds on each page.  If I come up with an idea for a later scene or dialogue, I skip to the bottom of the manuscript and take notes or write the bits and pieces to be used later, then go back to what I was doing.

      The only thing about my writing method that’s semi-organized is my research area.  Even though I have an office in the home (where I am right now), I use it strictly for the business side of writing.  For my creative side, I use my pink Mac Airbook and write either outside on my screened-in-porch (when the weather’s nice) or in my sitting room.  This room has huge windows, bookshelves, a fireplace, a coffee bar and a refrigerator (for those Diet Dr. Peppers).  

      When I finish a book I clear out and file all of my research materials and empty the low-lying shelf next to my writing chair (big enough so that my dog can fit next to me).  Then I start acquiring books on whatever subject I need for the next book and fill the bookshelf.  I take notes in no particular order, on the backs of other notes or on scraps and hope I can find them later.  But they all get put on that shelf so that I have a good chance of finding it later when I need it.

      Right now, I’m heading toward the end of my next book (On Folly Beach, May 2010). Half of the book takes place in 1942 and the other half in 2009.  You can only imagine the amount of research this book has required to get all of the 1942 details straight.  Notes are everywhere (hence the pile by the printer–I haven’t brought them upstairs to my shelf yet).  I wish it weren’t such a mess!

      Yet, when I’m writing a book all I want to do it write. I just can’t be bothered with filing stuff because it takes away from my writing.  Maybe one day when I’m not chasing my family around, I’ll have more time to be more organized about my writing.  But for now, this method works for me.

      I’ve got to go sort laundry now (tomorrow’s Thursday) and then get to bed a little early because my Palm Pilot just sent out an alarm to remind me that my dog is scheduled for his annual vet checkup tomorrow morning at eight am.  If only my writing life could be so simple!

Thanks, Karen for sharing a bit of your writing life with us.  What do you think about Karen’s methods and her cute refrigerator for Diet Dr. Pepper?

***Giveaway Details***

1 copy of The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White for U.S./Canada reader

1. Enter a comment here about what you thought about the guest post.
2. For a second entry, comment on my review, here.
3. Become a follower and receive an additional entry.
4. If you purchase The House on Tradd Street by Karen White through my Amazon Affiliate link and send me an email with the invoice or receipt information, you can get an additional 3 entries.

Deadline is Dec. 7, 2009, at 11:59PM EST.


The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White pits Melanie Middleton, a Realtor who guards her emotions like most would protect buried treasure, against Jack Trenholm, a confident author and potential suitor, and elements of the supernatural.  Melanie must face her fears about her abilities and the truth behind the break-up of her family when her famous mother and opera singer returns to Charleston, South Carolina.

“We stood gaping at the marble-tiled floor with the faux-zebra shag area rug galloping down the middle of the hall.  The elegant egg-and-dart carved cornices had been painted black to offset the fuchsia hue of the walls.  Lime green beanbag chairs with legs offered seating to anybody with enough taste to make their knees go weak upon viewing the psychedelic colors of the hallway.  (Page 44-45)

White creates an intricate mystery that Melanie must unravel for herself without relying heavily on Jack, as she did in the previous book, The House on Tradd Street (click for my review).  White’s characters are vivid; so much so, that readers may want to smack Melanie through the pages and tell her to get a grip.  The beginning chapters spend a bit of time with Melanie as she attempts to sort out her feelings for Jack, her mother, and her abilities.  In some cases, Melanie’s whining may be a bit much for readers, but the action picks up and the knotted lives of Melanie’s ancestors will hook readers until the very last pages.

“I didn’t wait for a response, and was glad he didn’t show any resistance as I dragged him toward the back door.  . . .  I gave a brief wave and had pulled Jack through the door and closed it before my mother made it into the kitchen.

‘I think I like it when you’re rough,’ Jack said.”  (Page 143)

White introduces new characters, like Rebecca Eggerton, and resurrects some of the older characters, like Sophie and Chad, from the first book.  This provides readers with new relationship triangles to navigate, while trying to work through the paranormal mystery.  If readers have read and enjoyed The House on Tradd Street, they will enjoy this tale.

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White is an entertaining and a good second book in this paranormal-gothic romance-mystery series.  At times, readers could find the repetitive elements in Melanie’s narration distracting, as she repeats her grudge against her mother and her indecision about letting go of her self control where Jack is concerned.  It is clear that this is a second book and that there is more to come given the final lines of the book.

Stay tuned tomorrow, Dec. 1., for a guest post from Karen White about her writing.

FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on images and title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchases are necessary.  I received my free review copy of The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White from the author and Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting.

I read this book as part of the recent Thankfully Reading Weekend Challenge.  Did you participate?  Which books did you read?  I only read two.

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

Karen White‘s The House on Tradd Street is part romance, part ghost story, part mystery. The narration of this novel grips the reader with its beautiful descriptions of South Carolina and the historic neighborhoods of Charleston. Melanie Middleton specializes in historic home sales, though she hates historic homes and believes those who buy historic homes are saps willing to waste thousands of dollars on renovations. Fate brings her into the home of Mr. Vanderhorst, who asks Melanie if she saw a woman in the garden. Days later, he suddenly dies and leaves her his home.

Melanie is given a historic home and the money to renovate and repair it as part of the Vanderhorst estate. There are a great cast of characters in this book from Mr. Vanderhorst to his mother’s ghost and Melanie, her father, and Jack Trenholm. Melanie is a barracuda in the real estate world, but her inability to relate to her family or male companions hampers her ability to widen her horizons. She’s a strong character in spite of these weaknesses. Meanwhile, Jack uses his good looks and fame to woo women to his side and charm them out of information so he can uncover historical mysteries and publish books. His charm and good looks are just a cover.

The restoration at Tradd Street begins, and Melanie is overwhelmed by her responsibilities and the two attractive men that have fallen into her life–Marc Longo and Jack Trenholm. In spite of the restoration, Melanie gets wrapped up in the mystery surrounding Mr. Vanderhorst’s mother’s disappearance and the ghosts that haunt her new home.

White easily draws the reader into the beauty of Charleston and her ghost mystery. The intricate relationships between these characters are complex, and in spite of the convenient connections between Melanie’s family, the Vanderhorsts, and the Trenholms in a big city like Charleston, I was enveloped in the storyline.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the novel (page 130):

“I was so relieved to see him that I didn’t waste any time asking him what in the hell he was talking about. I threw back the dead bolt and disarmed the alarm before pulling open the door and launching myself at him.

‘Wow, Mellie–it’s good to see you too. But could you wait until I got my clothes off first?'”

The mystery doesn’t get heavy with humor like this sprinkled in. The interactions between Melanie and Jack are contagious and will make readers smile.

I recommend this book to those who love a good mystery and a good ghost story. Stay tuned tomorrow for Karen White’s guest post on the writing and publishing process.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on tomorrow’s guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me The House on Tradd Street.

Also Reviewed By:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty
S. Krishna’s Books
The Book Czar
Library Queue
Diary of an Eccentric
In Bed With Books
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
The Book Connection
Cafe of Dreams