Friday Book Whimsy: All Summer Long

imgresI really used to like author Dorothea Benton Frank. I loved her descriptions of life in the low country of South Carolina. I liked her ascerbic characters and their interesting lives. I even liked the romance that was almost always a part of her story.

But her last few books have been a disappointment, and All Summer Long was really the worse one yet. I have never in my life read a book that moved along more slowly and that featured characters in whom I was less interested.

Olivia Ritchie and her husband Nicholas Seymour have a lovely condo in New York City. Olivia is a very successful interior-designer-for-the-rich-and-famous and Nicholas was an English professor who has recently retired. Having been born and brought up in South Carolina low country, he has gotten Olivia to agree to sell their NYC home and move to SC. What Nicholas doesn’t know (apparently being the dumbest college professor who ever lived) is that the couple is nearly flat broke.

Olivia continues to try to build her business by wooing an exceptionally wealthy man and his southern belle wife (who must be one of Frank’s most predicable caricatures in any of her books). As such, much of the book takes place in settings other than South Carolina. Olivia and Nicholas fly to Caribbean islands and Spain and even spend time at a mansion in New Jersey. Seeings as the South Carolina setting is about the only thing the book has going for it, the book falls entirely flat.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that money doesn’t buy happiness. But it was hard for me to find the moral in the story since all of the characters were rich and all of the characters seemed to love being obnoxious, having no interest in changing.

I hardly ever finish a book that I so heartily dislike, but I just kept plugging along because I couldn’t believe that the author wouldn’t redeem herself and her characters in some way. She simply didn’t.

I recommend you not waste your time on this novel.

Here is link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: The Hurricane Sisters

searchI have always enjoyed novels by Dorothea Benton Frank, whose book settings are always somewhere in the Low Country of South Carolina. Her characters are always strong, if somewhat quirky, women, and the island settings always become at least a character of sorts. I always leave the story wishing I lived on an island off the coast of South Carolina, where I could just pop over the bridge and be in Savannah or Charleston.

However, The Hurricane Sisters fell significantly short of being a novel worth reading. Its only redeeming characteristic was that the settings were Charleston and the family home on Sullivans Island. Frank’s description of life on Sullivans Island made me want to pack up and move there. I could almost hear the ocean waves.

The storyline takes on the difficult subject of domestic violence. I would have preferred that the author write a nonfiction account of a serious problem that is apparently becoming more and more common in South Carolina. Addressing the subject in a weak fictional story almost seemed silly.

Frank presents three generations of Pringle women – Maisie, the matriarch; Liz, her daughter; and Ashley, Liz’s daughter whose desire is to make a career out of her talent for painting. Maisie is the strong-willed character always present in Frank’s novels, and really the only character who rang true at all. Liz is caught in a marriage that has lost its zing, and she compensates by putting all her efforts and emotions into her job at a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence, while at the same time ignoring her husband’s philandering. Ashley lives in the family home on Sullivans Island, and couldn’t possibly be a sillier character. Though apparently a smart and gifted artist, she spends the entire book mooning after a handsome state senator who is headed for greater things (the White House) despite the fact that he is clearly a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

It is simply laughable that Liz, who is so committed to fighting domestic violence simply dismisses Ashley’s roommate Mary Ellen’s attempt to convince her that the senator is abusive. Simply wouldn’t happen.

So many of Frank’s earlier novels are so much better. If you are interested in reading books with beautiful settings and interesting characters, pick one of her earlier novels such as Sullivan’s Island or Plantation.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Amazon here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Barnes and Noble here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Tattered Cover here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Changing Hands here.



Friday Book Whimsy: 2015 Must Reads

I have read a few 2015 releases already – World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane; Under the Same Blue Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt; and A Spool of Blue Thread,  by Anne Tyler, to be specific. I enjoyed all three, and have posted reviews of them all.

But there are a few 2015 books that have either recently been released or are yet to be released that I wouldn’t even think of missing for a variety of reasons.

In no particular order….

Few would argue that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important American books of all time. The characters are unforgettable. Scheduled to be released on July 14, Go Set a Watchman is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. What makes this book particularly unique is that it was actually written and submitted years before To Kill a Mockingbird. Thought to be lost, the manuscript was found and will be released. Go Set a Watchman features the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird, but 20 years later.

Sadly, author Kent Haruf passed away last year, but not before completing Our Souls at Night, which was released May 26. Set in the same fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt, Our Souls at Night is the story of two elderly people, both who lost their spouses several years ago, who find friendship and love in their later years amidst the small town gossip. Kent Haruf writes the most unbelieveably beautiful prose imaginable. I have this book sitting on my ebook shelf, and am eagerly looking forward to finishing the books I have borrowed from the library to dig into this one. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows was released June 9 to much acclaim. Barrows is the author of the much-loved (including by me) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Barrows’ newest novel takes place in 1938 in a small West Virginian town, and tells the story of a young girl forced by her father (a United States Senator) to live in this small town despite her boredom. Boredom that is until she meets the Romeyn family and begins to unravel some family secrets. Sounds very good.

Julia Keller has become one of my favorite authors, and her protagonist Bell Elkins is one of my favorite characters. Last Ragged Breath, which will be released on August 25, is the next in the dark mystery series that also takes place in a fictional town in West Virginia. Her novels are contemporary, however. Keller’s writing is phenomenal and richly realistic. I can’t wait for this book to come out.

Speaking of mystery series, I’m eagerly awaiting Louise Penney’s next book The Nature of the Beast, featuring my beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The mysteries take place in a fictional small town near Quebec in Canada. Penney’s writing is imminently readable, but for me, the series is all about C.I. Gamache. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I want him to be one of my BFFs.

Our favorite bail bondsman Stephanie Plum and her gang of hilarious friends will be back November 17 in Tricky Twenty-Two. I am compelled to include this book, not because it is great literature, but because every single one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have been so funny that I am in danger of, well, never mind. There is no way in the world I would miss a single one of these mysteries. The Stephanie Plum books are one of several that I really prefer to listen to as opposed to reading simply because the woman who narrates the books – Lorelei King – is absolutely tremendous.

Author Sue Grafton will be releasing the next in her so-called alphabet series featuring private investigator Kinsey Milhone on August 25. I used to love this series, but as of late, it has began to feel repetitious. Still, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, and this novel, entitled X, is the third from the end. I can’t quit now. For the past 23 books, I have been wondering what Grafton would title the X-book. You know, like A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, L is for Lawless, O is for Outlaw, etc. I haven’t been able to think past X is for X-ray. Instead, Grafton went for simplicity with the title simply being X.  Who knows? Maybe Grafton will start over with double letters. You know, like AA is for Awesome Aardvark.

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank, is a must-read for me simply because I absolutely love her settings, all of which are the low country of South Carolina, near Charleston. Her books always feature a strong-willed woman facing difficult circumstances and coming out unscathed. I like Frank’s writing. All the Single Ladies was released June 9. The story centers around three women facing the death of a fourth woman. I hate books where characters die, but I will undoubtedly give this one a try.

My new favorite author, Karen White, has a new novel out, released on May 12. The Sound of Glass follows a familiar Karen White theme – a young woman learns she has inherited a family estate that, of course, has a secret attached. The Sound of Glass takes place in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is a draw for me. I’m not sure I’ll get to this novel right away as White is very prolific and I have only recently begun reading her books. But I will definitely read it sometime soon.

Are there books either recently released or soon-to-be-released that you are going to read?