Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

I love southern fiction. I can't remember which book started it. It might have been Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven. Or it might have been the Big Stone Gap books by Adriana Trigiani. My love was solidified when I read The Help by Katherine Stockett. So when I read about the OKRA picks from Bermudaonion, I was intrigued and found this book. It has been on my hold list for several weeks and I finally got it over a week ago. 

From the publisher: 
In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood—and for the woman who means the world to her…
On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there—cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.
Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence…
Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us—from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.

I know I was a decent student in school but personal stories of segregation in the south are so intriguing to me; it seems like there's so much I still don't know about that time in history. Jubie stole my heart right away. She's such a strong girl, holding up against her father's abuse, her mother's sometimes indifference and always wanting to do the right thing by Mary. There's nothing about this book I didn't like except for the tragedy that happens during the story. Jubie's loyalty to Mary just doesn't waver throughout. I admired Jubie's mother so much: four kids at home, even with Mary's help she still seemed so overwhelmed. By the end of the book, she's still on her own feet and still has a firm grip on her family. I can't say enough about the writing either, which alternates between present time and time before they took their trip to Jubie's uncle Taylor's house until the time meshes together until the end of the book. 

The copy I read from my library, had a great Q & A with the author as well as a reading group guide at the end of the book. The author took over 17 years to write the book. I loved this book so much and I only hope it takes much less time to wait for her second book!!

Sorry for the delay in posts here - we had a family emergency last weekend and my reading was put on hold for a few days. Life has stabilized, I think, so I hope to post another review this weekend which is another southern fiction book and local Wisconsin author, Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

NO I know it's too early for my blog anniversary. Last night my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. His gift to me was two paintings commissioned by Wisconsin artist Paul Tourdot. The paintings are of two of our cats that we recently lost in December 2010 and January 2011. My husband gave him a flash drive of all sorts of photos and the paintings were the spectacular result. You can view Paul's work here: Tourdot Fine Arts
Here is a photo of the paintings that I just have to share!! The cat on the left is Booka and the cat on the right is Lexi. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tavern League

My sunday paper had a great article about a new Wisconsin book called Tavern League: Portraits of Wisconsin Bars by Carl Corey. Read the article here! Its mostly a photography book, telling stories of many old taverns in Wisconsin that go back farther than the local BW3's as the local hotspot. There aren't any Madison bars listed according to the article, which could be an opportunity for Mr. Corey, as I've "heard" some of the downtown bars have a rich history! I can't say much better than the article does for this book, but I'm intrigued because it sounds like many of these long-running taverns have avoided adding eleventy televisions and loud, LOUD music that are expected in so many sports bars and restaurants today These taverns are probably very different than walking into places like Applebee's, BW3's, Red Robin, and Hooters where you're afforded a TV from any view at almost every table, but you can't hear them anyways because of the loud music.
I'll digress as I'm in no way intending this to be any kind of social commentary - I'm looking forward to checking out this book mostly for the local color and history factors I hope it will contain. Here's a link to the book: Tavern League

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Name change

I received an email yesterday afternoon from another blogger, BookfanMary who alerted me of her blog with a similar name, and she's also from Wisconsin. I hemmed and hawwed, googled our blogs (mine never came up in a google search, kinda weird) and decided to change the name this morning. Its colorful and provocative in my opinion at least! It makes me a little hungry too!
I just started Lesley Kagen's book Tomorrow River yesterday She resides in Milwaukee, WI!  I'm also making my way through The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. The Dry Grass of August I've emailed a few fellow bloggers and hope to get a side column showing what I'm reading for my next blog posts!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion

There's so many reasons I liked this book before I even read the first page. I discovered Karen McQuestion from her first book A Scattered Life when I checked it out at the library. I love that she's from Wisconsin and writes novels set in Wisconsin.

Easily Amused is set in Wisconsin, where 29 year old Lola Watson has settled in her new home, inherited from her great-aunt May. Lola has her dream job a writer at a small parenting magazine, a home of her own and is ready for the next steps in her life: finding a great guy to settle down with and start a family. Except Lola isn't dating anyone, and she's turning 30 soon, in fact her birthday is the same day her younger sister Mindy chose for her wedding day. Mindy thinks that fact is a riot and in her conniving way, also wants to exploit that fact for her own amusement. You get a real sense of the aggravation and rivalry between the sisters right away. Lola and her best friend Piper, decide to fabricate a story for Lola's date for the wedding and the story is off and running from there. Out of almost a dream comes Ryan Moriarty, handsome, charming, and classically dashing in the "knight on a white horse" fashion. Even more perfect is he happens to live in her new neighborhood, another cast of characters adding to the layers of the story in this book. Lola has several neighbors and all of them are attentive and available at seemingly at a moment's notice! Lola isn't used to this kind of intrusion on her life. She wanted to move into this neighborhood and blend in and keep to herself. As the novel unfolds, she begins to realize, one by one, how important these people are. They aren't just nosy neighbors after all!
Also adding to the story is Lola's best friend Hubert, who moves in with her after a bad break-up. Lola, Hubert and Piper have all been friends since their school days. He's a great layer to the story as he finds her neighbors one by one, and sees them as genuine people right away, not as the nosy that Lola finds them to be.
Easily Amused is a comfy read, with just enough layers to be light and but still thought provoking. Its the third book I've read by Karen McQuestion and they've all been comfy and they drew me in right away where I didn't want to put the book down. I related to Lola well, remembering when many of my friends started getting married and starting families, when I myself was still dating dud after dud. I live in a great neighborhood as well with attentive and friendly neighbors. I wanted to tell Lola to embrace her neighbors because they are such an asset to a neighborhood. Lola's just a solid character I wanted to root for from the first page and I was pleased how Karen wrapped up the novel by the last page.
I also love Karen's story as a writer. Her first book, A Scattered Life, was self-published as a Kindle e-book and readers soon saw the same thing I have - A GREAT WRITER! She's since published five books with AmazonEncore and resides in Hartland, WI. Her website is
I've also reviewed A Scattered Life  on my goodreads account:
I've read Easily Amused, A Scattered Life and Life On Hold by checking them all out at my local library in Madison, WI.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Its a great day in Wisconsin everybody! YES it is!

I'm finally starting my blog. I've been talking about it for over a year and with the advice from many of my favorite bloggers and even a few authors, I'm here at my first blog post. I'm starting the blog because I can't stop talking about books. If I see someone reading a book, I have to ask them what they're reading and talk about what I'm reading.  A few years ago I found some great blogs which helped me find a multitude of new authors and books I'd have never picked up on my own.  I've tried starting my own book club to no avail and I realized I needed an outlet months ago. So my hopes for the blog are mostly to ramble about books I'm reading, those I want to read, share blog posts by my favorite bloggers, and reviews of books I read from occasional online book clubs or from the library book club. I want to find more Wisconsin authors to read, review, promote, etc. It all started for me with Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At a Time by Michael Perry. Since then I've read all of his books and I'm continually looking for more books by Wisconsin authors. 
I'm also a fan of southern fiction: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; Wish You Well by David Baldacci; Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, One Mississippi  by Mark Childress and Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven.
SO that's my first post - Stay tuned for my first review of a book by Karen McQuestion: Easily Amused!