A Year on Ladybug Farm

August 24th. 2009

Have you ever heard a cuter title? I admit I grabbed this book for cover quality alone. Then when I read the back copy,  I was hooked. What was not to love? Three older women friends pool their resources to buy an old forsaken “Monticello” styled home in the Virginia countryside? This novel chronicles their ups and downs in the remodeling of the home and their lives. Unfortunatley, I started skipping pages early on. And I don’t know why. The characters were well drawn, lots of dialogue, a certain dash of mystery and a handful of broken families needing repair. For some reason I just didn’t click with Cici, Bridget and Lindsey. Is it because the characters had already endured a lot of what I’m in the middle of and I didn’t want this glimpse into my future? ( I should be so fortunate to be this beautiful, financially secure and career driven in my fifties.) I don’t know. I’ve wondered more about why I didn’t like this book, then most other novels I’ve liked. I will say, I admired a writer crafting characters who were up for an adventure, weren’t afraid of hard work, and had the perseverance to endure huge obstacles. That’s a timeless message.

The Summer Kitchen

August 14th. 2009

Lisa Wingate’s newest novel details the upheaval in a woman’s life when inheritances, life goals, family crises and new beginnings all converge in one hot summer. Lisa Wingate’s writing talent is ever-growing and she can turn ordinary women into unsuspecting heroes with a few finely crafted sentences. This novel is set in Dallas, Texas–a bit of a stone’s throw from here, but refreshing in that so many books are set in places I can’t say I’ve walked on their sidewalks.  ThoughUncle Poppy’s house and neighborhood are fictional, I’ve been in ones just like the ones Wingate describes. But this is not one character’s story. Several people are affected and changed by the events that happen as a result of Uncle Poppy’s house going on the market, and though the ride is turbulent and all too real, the outcome is as a satisfying as a glass of cold lemonade on a hot Texas day.

Heartbreak Cafe

August 11th. 2009

I walked out of Barron’s Bookstore the other day with an armload of summer reading. Though I have an Agatha Christie biography on my bedside table, inevitably I reach for the novels first. And I’m not talking thrillers or depressing tomes about social issues, I want fun reads for these hot, humid nights.  Since I’ve enjoyed other novels by Penelope Stokes, I started with her latest book. Heartbreak Cafe.  The back cover said there were two things Dell’s mama told her a man couldn’t get enough of: good cookin’ and good lovin’. And without spoiling anything for you, I will say Dell learns some painful, gut-wrenching lessons regarding those truisms. The title doesn’t lie.  But that doesn’t mean this a sad story that takes you to the pit of despair either. Dell goes to the pit, but the chapters are short and it makes the ride easier. I did learn about an interesting concept in a therapeutic painting experience. Dell participates in this unusual emotional expulsion (she paints her emotions in group therapy) and through it learns how to release her grief, broken dreams and recognize the people who are her true friends. And those friends are what make this book such a pleasure to read. It’s a southerner’s book, filled with far out names, plenty of kudzu and fried pies. Penelope Stokes may have done the impossible in giving a heroic, and romantic character, the name of Fart Unger. And there’s almost nothing better to read than watching someone so hurt pull themselves back into peace. I’ll  take a slice of pie from the Heartbreak Cafe any day.