Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Every kid wants to run away at some point in their life. Whether its because of a bad grade or because of a painful death, we all thought about getting out on our own and doing things our way. But what would happen if we really did it? There are plenty of authors and directors that have shown us what they think would happen, but Susan Crandall's version is by far my favorite.

In Whistling Past the Graveyard, we follow nine-year-old Starla on her big adventure to find her mother in Nashville in 1963. While reading stories about segregation in the United States was a huge part of our curriculum in school, I have never been interested in history and have never had the desire to read about something horrible in our past for pleasure. This book was another book I chose just for the cover, but this was an extremely pleasant surprise.

There were two main things I liked about this story. I really enjoyed how Crandall wrote it using the language Starla and the other characters would have actually used. Though the liberal use of the non-word 'ain't' might make English teachers everywhere cringe, I felt that it really helped me get into the setting of the book. It also helped me remember that it was in Starla's perspective, as she would talk about how her teachers would correct her.

This story being written from Starla's perspective was the other thing that made this book really great. Crandall didn't need to rely on huge plot twists or having too many story lines; by showing the plot from the point of view of a child, she was able to create these plot twists simply by revelations of repressed memories. The story was able to flow quite nicely and keep me drawn in.

Another benefit of seeing things from Starla's perspective was that her innocence in this time period showed me how things were able to continue. Though she didn't care about skin color or understand why it would make one person worth less than another, she knew that society had these rules and she was expected to follow them. I always wondered how hatred grew in small children, but I realize now that it wasn't hatred. It was simply children doing what they did best: copying the things they saw their parents do.

When reviewing books, I always try to give you the most honest review by sharing both the good and bad parts. Whistling Past the Graveyard was a great book, and I had a difficult time thinking about anything I would change about it. There was one character that I would have liked to know more about, but I'd rather not spoil the book for any of you.

This was pretty different than anything I've read recently, though I'm definitely not complaining. This book was a great read, even though I had no idea what to expect when I started reading. In my opinion, any book that can teach a teacher something is a book that everyone should read. I highly recommend Whistling Past the Graveyard to everyone.

For more information, please visit the official website of Susan Crandall at http://www.susancrandall.net/.

Whistling Past the Graveyard is available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your favorite retailer.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: The Naughty Girls Book Club by Sophie Hart

Estelle Humphreys, divorced mother of teenager Joe, runs a bakery that isn’t quite doing well. In order to boost sales and get her brand out, she starts a knitting club that meets weekly at her bake shop. The five members happen upon a magical pair of jeans that fits each one perfectly, despite their varying body types (and genders), and begin a magical journey to save the bakery….

What’s that you say? You thought this book was about a book club? My bad, let me try that again.

Estelle Humphreys is the owner of a bakery that just isn’t getting the sales it should be. When she sees a fellow small business go under, she decides to start a book club to help get her sales going again. What she gets is a very diverse group: Rebecca, the teacher who wants more out of life; Sue, the retired woman who is growing tired of her boring life; Gracie, the feminist rebel with a passion for 1950s fashion; and Reggie, the awkward graduate student who swears he is just using the group for research. The Naughty Girls’ Book Club follows these five folks as they go through changes they never expected.

All joking aside, when I began reading The Naughty Girls’ Book Club, I was amazed at how it seemed like a perfect mix of The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants and the Friday Night Knitting Club (with much less crying.) We have a group of people, who each had their own storylines told from their own perspectives, that meet each week at a small shop to do what they love to do: talk. I was a bit confused about why we would need yet another book that followed similar rules, but Sophie Hart’s novel definitely sets itself apart.

The book club, which brings all of the characters together, is not a typical book club. After a first meeting where Estelle discovers that the classics she planned to read together bored the others, she quickly decided to go a different route and read romantic/erotic novels. Through the book, each character gets to choose a novel for the club that shows a different aspect to the world of erotic fiction.
Check out Sophie Hart's Twitter!

One of the best things about the novel is that almost all of their chosen books are in fact real. The only one that was not was the first erotic novel they read, Ten Sweet Lessons. This book, which like its real-life counterpart started a craze through the nation, came across as a poorly written novel meant simply to titillate the reader. While I can’t say that I am a fan of the novel that this fake novel was inspired by, I respect that without it Hart would have never written The Dirty Girls’ Book Club.

Though this book may seem to be all about sexuality on the surface, it truly is about the characters and their relationships. Through the novel, we get to follow all five characters’ storylines and see them from the perspectives of the other members. As the novel progresses, you learn of a problem or challenge each character faces. Hart did an amazing job with tying up all of the loose ends and finding a resolution for each story line. This novel works great as a stand-alone novel.

There was one big problem that bothered me. I love to read because I love to laugh, and a lot of the time I choose books because I know that they will make me laugh. This story has all the potential in the world to make the reader laugh, but the most I got out of it was a smile. As an example, there is a scene between Estelle and her son’s football coach, who was creating a website for her bakery, that could have been hilarious (especially since a lot of people could relate in one way or another.) However, it didn’t stand out at all and simply got swallowed up in the novel. I think that Hart could have played this scene up a bit and given the audience a laugh.

I read the majority of this book during one sick day. It definitely grabbed my attention, though it was pretty anti-climactic. Is this a good book for someone who likes the erotic fiction they read in the story? Not at all. But this is a good book for someone who wants to cuddle up on the couch and read something that will make them smile.
Check out Sophie Hart's The Naughty Girls' Book Club today on Amazon for Kindle or on Google Play!