Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sweet Story, Sweet Magnolias–Book Review

Not every book is a classic.  Not every book is so fabulous you want to read it over and over again.  But even books that aren’t strikingly brilliant or must re-reads can be enjoyable.  Honeysuckle Summer by Sherryl Woods was one of these.  A nice entertaining read to take you away from reality for a little while.  A quick read with pleasant, real characters and a plot that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with your friends.

Honeysuckle Summer (Sweet Magnolias)Honeysuckle Summer is part of a series about a group of friends called the Sweet Magnolias.  In this story, one of the Sweet Magnolias, Raylene, faces her fears.  Facing down her ex-husband and agoraphobia while trying not to botch the first chance she’s had a real relationship in a long time.  It’s a cute story.

There’s a few other background stories, but unlike some books I’ve previously read, they stay in the background and don’t create a jumbled soap-opera styled mess.  And they’re related to each other enough that the reader doesn’t stop and think ‘now what’s that doing here now?’

It’s a short review, but it’s hard to say much when there’s little to rant about but not much to rave about either.  It’s a sweet novel, and although it’s not unforgettable, it’ll stay on my mind for a bit yet.  If I happen to come across another Sweet Magnolia novel or one of Sherryl' Woods’ other 100 published books somewhere, I’ll probably read it.


P.S. Don’t worry Mommy, I’m not sending it to you.  Putting it for sale on Amazon.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Swearing on the Grave of Elvis –Book Review

You know how some movie reviews say ‘wait for it on video’?  Well, for this book, I say wait for it to enter the public domain.  I know that’s a really long time, but trust me, if you die first, you won’t have missed anything.

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes has nothing to do with any one having the blues and there isn’t a single pair of new shoes in the entire book.  That’s the least of the misleads.

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes | [Dixie Cash]The book’s summary describes it as a mystery novel about Elvis’ blue suede shoes going missing just before the start of a huge celebration for Elvis’ birthday in Salt Lick, Texas.  It talks about how these two friends who run a beauty shop and a detective agency are going to have to figure out what happened to the shoes.  - Apparently this book is part of a series about these two women. – It adds that maybe they’ll have some time for some match making on the side.

Ok, the book begins with the shoes going missing, that plot’s there for a second, and then the whole book is pretty much about that match making part.  There is almost no sleuthing for the shoes, with the whole missing shoe thing being barely a background story while the two out-of-town reporters being match-made take over the story.  It doesn’t matter though, the reader will figure out what happened to the shoes before the plot even goes off track.

Just before the end of the book, it’s as if the author suddenly remembered the original plot and has the detectives find the shoes, exactly where the reader expected them to found back at the very beginning.  There, the chapters end, without resolving that whole match-made love affair that was the main focus of most of the book.  So there’s a rushed little epilogue added onto the end, basically saying “and they all lived happily ever after.”

So the book was distracted, predictable, a little boring.  None of that was that bad, and listening to the story (this was my audio book for bus rides) was better than listening to people on their cell phones.  Mostly.  There was one thing that absolutely drove me crazy about the book.  The two main characters, the detective, beauty-shop, middle-aged women had the foulest mouths I’ve ever encountered.  And I listen to rap music!  If I had switched all their swear words to vampires, this could have been a Twilight novel.

I don’t know why the author felt the need to write the f-word and other four letter friends so often.  Maybe it was supposed to some how be more realistic (do adults in Texas really swear that much?!), but all it was in reality was  very, very distracting.

Note: I finished two books today, one physical book and this audio book.  Tomorrow’s book review will be much happier.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From “Austin” to Nashville

I know it was Amanda.  I don’t remember why or when or even how, but I know it was her.  She has this way of waltzing in and overthrowing everything before you know it.  Born a few decades earlier and the government might have had her on special missions to South America.

Anyway, I know it was Amanda, and I wish I remember why or when or how she got me to sit down and listen to this song called “Austin.”  Staunchly in my Eminem phase (it was college, I remember that much), I listened to two types of music, West Coast influenced hip hop and Metallica.  Well, ok three, there was a heavy dose of 1776 in there.  Yet somehow, this crazy girl got me to listen to country.  That’s right, country.

The door was cracked open.  Granted, it never became wide open, remaining for the next however-many-years ajar, but it was still far more open than I ever expected.  Heck, I never thought that door would even be unlocked.  From “Austin” to Alan Jackson to Toby Keith, new music started to slip into my previously anger-filled cd player.  All because of Amanda and “Austin.”

Blake Shelton was inducted into the Opry this past weekend.  Just happened to be the weekend I was in Nashville.  And we just happened to look into Opry tickets (after discovering that To Kill a Mockingbird at the TPAC was sold out).  As soon as I saw that Blake Shelton was joining the Opry at the show that night, I had to go.

When people join the Opry, they’re invited and then inducted by current members.  In this case, both the invitation and the induction were done by Trace Adkins.  That meant both Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins were performing at the Opry. Woo hoo!  - I started liking Trace’s music while living in Nashville when I heard a song with a theme similar to much hip hop, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”.

I didn’t hear “Austin” or “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” at the Opry.  But the performances by both men were great.  And their duet, “Hillbilly Bone” was quite entertaining.  Of course any song with Trace Adkin’s deep voice is going to sound good to my ears.  I’d love to hear him and James Hetfield do a duet.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Packers Beat the Vikings, so Why am I so Glum?

Sunday Night Football, a national game, meaning a Green Bay game was actually on in the San Francisco Bay.  I was ecstatic.  Curled up on the couch next to Mr. Trizzle, I was all set to root for my team.  Let’s go Pack!

And I did.  And we won.  But I wasn’t ecstatic.  I was just eh.  Why?  How could this be?  We won!  We defeated our arch enemies, ‘that expansion team from out West,’ that traitor Darth Judas Favre.  But no, there was no massive elation.  No overjoy.  Not even the silly laughter I’d had at the end of the Raiders blow-out 59 to 14 victory earlier that day.  Nothing.

It wasn’t a real win.  It was a present handed to us.  And I don’t mean handed to us by Favre’s three interception passes, two of which went straight into Packer hands and the third caught in a flying leap over the intended Viking’s head.  No, it was a present handed to us by the refs.

Coach Childress called it the “Worst officiated game [he’d] seen.”  I kind of agree.  The Packer touchdown that was out of bounds.  The overturned Vikings touchdown where having two hands on the ball and holding onto it was somehow not having control of the ball.  I’m sorry, but with better officiating, that game would have been a loss.

Ok, ok, so you want to argue how there’s rules and challenges and Childress could have challenged the Packers’ touchdown and didn’t so it’s valid and fair.  And I suppose you’ll make some argument for the validity of the overturning of the Shiancoe diving catch pass, too.  Fine, go ahead, because I think there’s something else bothering me than just bad ref-ing and a stolen win.

When Favre comes out on that field, on Lambeau field, in a Vikings jersey, it’s like seeing your ex-boyfriend show up at your party with his new girlfriend.  Your stomach lurches, your mouth goes dry, your heart pounds into your throat.  You hate him.

But you also feel protective.  There’s no way that new vampire he’s with is going to hurt him.  And when the evening starts going badly for him,  when you see him sad, left alone in a corner, hurt, you feel sad.  You feel pity.  There’s nothing you can do, and even if there were, you probably wouldn’t want to, but still.  It sucks to see someone that used to mean so much to you shriveled and worn, and hurt.

Watching Favre Monday night, even just the little head that pops up and blinks from the stats bar on the bottom of the screen, was depressing.  The grey hair, the wrinkles, the tired half-grimace half-nothing expression on his face.  It’s too much.  He’s struggling, yet trying so hard.  The officials unfairly take the game away, we fracture his ankle, and by the end of the night, he seems like just a lonely old man, deep sadness set in the eyes brimming with tears.  How is it possible to look at the hurt in those eyes and not feel the tiniest bit of compassion?


The NBC announcers were speculating that someday Green Bay and the Packer fans will forgive Favre and there will be a Favre Way or something near the stadium.  Maybe someday, but I doubt it will be while he’s alive.  We’re hurting, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Roses Comes up Roses

The trouble with finishing a good book is that it’s finished.  I have trouble; I finished a good book, a very good book.

Last time I wrote about a book, I said I was hard to please.  I certainly felt that way, having been disappointed by so many books in a row.  But this time, I was far from disappointed. 

imageRoses’ back cover promised to delight and thrill and at that usual stuff.  And boy did Roses deliver.  Leila Mecham’s book is described as a Texan Gone with the Wind.  This isn’t really fair to Roses.  Although there’s a bit in the novel that is reminiscent of GWTW, like the dark-haired heroine who cares more about her fathers land and is willing to sacrifice everything for it, Roses stands on its own as a great novel.

It’s over 600 pages long.  I started it on Thursday morning.  I finished it yesterday, on Sunday.  Four days.  Of course it helped that I had some long flights in there on which to read, but it wasn’t just the flights.  Whenever I had to put the book down, I found myself lost in thought about the story, wondering about the characters, thinking of them as real people.  No matter what I was doing, I couldn’t wait to pick up my book again and dive back in. 

Even now, even while listening to a different book on the bus or reading email or walking down the street, my thoughts are on the main characters, Percy and Mary.  Or drifting off to other characters, feeling a sad loss and pity for Lucy.  Wondering if it’s really even possible to balance family traditions and love.  Thinking of the great romances in the book and comparing them to all the others I’ve known, fictional or otherwise.  Roses is one of those truly great books, the kind where you forget you’re reading; the kind that transplants you to another place and time.

Highly recommend it, but you’ll have to find your own copy.  This is one book I’m not selling on Amazon or mailing to my mommy.


Post Script: Of course, nothing is perfect (well, except maybe Pride and Prejudice), so I do need to point out the one downside of the book.  The one part that suddenly woke me up out of my dream-like haze.  Two paragraphs of the entire 600+ page novel take place in San Francisco.  Two paragraphs.  And twice in these two paragraphs, twice, San Francisco is described as sunny.  There’s even a part that describes a sunny home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Stop.  Right there, trance gone, groan. Thought: “well this author’s never been to SF.”  Sunny, maybe once in awhile.  Sunny and a view of the Pacific Ocean?!  Maybe once a year.  Luckily, another two paragraphs and I was back, lost in the magical world of East Texas.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Autumn Paradise

DSCI0071Warm sun, cool breeze. Crisp autumn leaves.  Beautiful reds, golds and oranges adorn the trees, decorate the sidewalks.  Crunching below my feet as I walk, whirling into little rustles of mini-cyclones.  It’s Fall in Nashville, and it’s beautiful.

I’m here on a mini vacation.  Vanderbilt Homecoming this weekend – the unveiling of a special portrait for an amazing recently-retired professor and a visit to friend who is going for his third Vanderbilt degree (and he didn’t even go here for undergrad!).

The campus is more beautiful than I remember.  Brick buildings, regal reminders of another time, rising high and mighty against the blue sky.  Cobbled pathways that were always murder on my stilettos.  And trees, all the beautiful trees, everywhere trees

The people are different, but they look the same.  Polo shirts and khaki shorts; side-swept bangs and pearls.  Prim, proper, hair done, make-up on, bright colors, dresses, shirts, ties, even just for a Saturday afternoon football game.

The law school.  Unchanged.  Well, except for those new fabrics on some of the chairs in the main sitting areas.  Those were needed, I remember some of the chairs being quite threadbare.  Far fewer familiar faces, but that comes with the passage of time.

I spent most of my time wandering around the campus, not the law school.  I often rambled around campus, going to other buildings, studying in the main library with the undergrads, eating in the campus center cafeteria.    It was these places I wanted to see.  The paths I used to take home as I cut through campus between the law school and my apartment.   The Commons area of campus where Mr. Trizzle and I would often hang out.  The ins and outs of my happy memories.

I miss Vanderbilt. I miss living in Nashville.  It’s a really great place.  But I wouldn’t trade my fabulous job for it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday Letters on a Thursday


As good as any other start since it’s October.

People have been complaining – and I do mean people and not just my mother – that I haven’t been writing.  You probably all assumed I got too busy to write.  Wrong.  Well, I am busy, but not too busy to write.  That wasn’t it.  Anyway…

There are some books that just pull me in completely, make me part of the world; the characters are people I know in another life.  And then, there’s most of the books I read.  Sadly.  Maybe I’m just too hard to please.

Last night, I finished one of these ‘usual’ books.  It was called The Wednesday Letters.  It wasn’t a bad book (thank goodness!) but it wasn’t stellar either.  It started out with this neat idea – old couple dies in bed together, kids find special letters their father wrote to their mother every week of the marriage.  Neat, sweet.  After the first chapter I thought I’d send the book home to my daddy.  Seemed like the sort of sappy love stuff that would make him hug Mommy a little tighter.

Then, I kept reading.  Pretty soon, crazy stuff started happening and the book wasn’t about the Wednesday letters.  It was about eight different storylines crammed soap-opera style into 150 pages.  I’m sorry, but unless your book is a large, thick tome, it shouldn’t have more plot lines than Les Miserables (which, please note is a large, thick tome).    And resolving them all at once just comes off as unbelievable.  I hate being reminded I’m reading a book.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by my love of Pride and Prejudice and it’s beautiful handling of only three plot lines, all of which end at different points and are realistically intertwined throughout the book.  Or maybe I’m just bitter because the last novel I read, A Blue and Gray Christmas, had the same ridiculous amount of plot lines crammed into an itty-bitty space like Genie in his lamp.

The current book I’m reading is 600+ pages.  At least I won’t have to worry about jumbled plots.


P.S. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of these novels, I still think it’s really neat that the authors sat down to write them, turned their ideas into reality and got their books published.  So kudos for that.