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Mailbox Monday

[ 15 ] July 20, 2014

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

For Review – Paper Copies

9780142181485MQueen-of-Hearts-678x1024Bitter Greens(1)SuchGoodGirls-hc-c-226x34251RoUI690BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

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Review: The New Mind of the South by Tracy Thompson

[ 3 ] July 20, 2014

08book "Tne New Mind of the South" by Tracy Thompson.Reviewed by A.D. Cole

If you’ve ever been confronted with the question of Southern identity—whether you’re a Southerner yourself, or have mistakenly taken cornbread sweetened with sugar to a potluck where Southerners are present, and then been subjected to decisive and passionate lectures about why neither you nor your cornbread are authentically Southern—then this title has probably snagged your attention. If you pick it up, you’ll find that Tracy Thompson’s investigative work seeks an understanding of what it has meant, in the past, to be Southern, and what it means today.

The New Mind of the South dives right into the issue at the root of the South’s identity crisis—race. Thompson explores the lies that Southerner’s believe about Civil War history, the sudden influx of Latino immigrants into the New South, the return of black Americans to the South, and the role of religion and politics in Southern identity. She caps it off with a scathing critique of the city of Atlanta as a blight on the Southern landscape and as a microcosm, or maybe even a symptom, of the Southern identity crisis.

What allows this book to exist at all, however, is that throughout the upheavals and overwhelming changes in The South, over the years, Southern Identity has refused to die. Southerners retain their tradition as friendly, hospitable, church-going folk amidst the tumultuous changes since the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws, Civil Rights, and immigration. The roots of Southern Identity run deep and it’s interesting to see, through this book, that despite all the disillusionment and change, that tree still stands.

Like with all sociological studies, I walked away from this one feeling slightly more marginalized than I had before. Even more so because I’m not a southerner, so I have no noble justification for holding to politico-religious beliefs that are so disparaged in the academic world where this author is writing from. I can’t simply say, “Well, I’m Southern, and this is who we are.” I also doubt that Southerners would appreciate the analysis being done here. Maybe a rare few who are wrestling with the same questions that the author addresses. But that’s a fairly narrow audience.

Still, I found moments of insight that lifted me—left me feeling more enlightened than I had before. For instance, she mentions a phrase coined by Freud, “the narcissism of small differences,” during a discussion of denominational Christianity; she discusses the doctrinal battles that exist among churches of the same religion and how those battles take on vast importance in the region despite being entirely insignificant in the broader view of the world. Later there is long description of “the person at the center.” At one point, Thompson says, “The person at the center is also deeply familiar with, and yet an outsider to, the religion of his culture.” I often wonder how many people feel this way and don’t know how to express it. I felt that reading these words opened my eyes, some. Though I’m not a Southerner, I understand the continual process of unraveling the strands of your own preconceptions and illusions in order to find a more truthful understanding of the world around you.

I’d say overall I enjoyed this book. Though I think when describing the “person at the center,” Thompson was also describing her audience, which I would guess is fairly narrow. Perhaps I’m underestimating readers and not everyone is as defensive as myself when it comes to having themselves analyzed. Still, I don’t know how to recommend this book other than to say, if you’re interested in the current state of Southern Identity…this is definitely the book to read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

[ 1 ] July 20, 2014

the killing woods by lucy christopherReviewed by Melanie Kline

Emily’s father, Jon has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and frequently fades into his own world staying in a bunker that he found in the woods. Emily worries about him and tries to watch over him. When The Killing Woods begins, Emily sees her father walking out of the woods with a dead girl draped across his arms. Emily recognizes her as Ashlee from school as they take her into the house and call the police. Of course, since Jon is the one who carried a dead girl out of the woods and has “zoned out” and cannot remember what happened or how he managed to be carrying her, he finds himself in jail and on trial for murder. Emily knows her father couldn’t have done such a thing and vows to save him.

Emily starts talking to Damon, Ashlee’s boyfriend, because of a punishment she gets for fighting to defend her father’s innocence. Slowly and warily they oddly become friends of a sort and both are trying to put the pieces together of what happened that night. Damon blacked out from being drunk and high while playing “The Game” with Ashlee and his other friends, Mack, Ed and Charlie. Emily is determined to prove that her father didn’t do it and Damon is desperately trying to remember what happened that night since he was the last one to see her before she wound up dead. Damon blames Jon, but is extremely troubled that he cannot remember what happened.

Emily and Damon are both very cautious in their relationship and yet find themselves attracted to each other. They are both working on proving their version of the murder true by venturing into the woods and the bunker attempting to put the pieces together.

The Killing Woods was a quite intriguing read. Just when I was sure that I knew what happened something else occurred to change my mind; in the end all I could do was feel sadness for Ashlee. I felt sadness for the way she died and the circumstances that brought her there. I highly recommend this story to everyone.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

[ 2 ] July 19, 2014

After-I-Do-CoverJoin the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge – check out one of the July selections below!

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Anyone who has been in a relationship long enough knows that things change. That person that once made every nerve in your body pulse with excitement just by entering the room can now sit next to you on the couch without you even registering they walked in. All those annoying habits you found so adorable years ago are now just annoying. Every conversation, every argument, every everything…you’ve done it all before. So what happens if one day you look at that person and realize you cannot stand to look at them for one second longer? When you search for your love for them in your heart and…nothing?

This is the dilemma Lauren and Ryan Cooper find themselves in. They have been together since college and, after eleven years, they have reached the point where they make each other miserable. Knowing this can go on no longer they come up with a plan: they will separate for one year, each one using this space to figure out what they really want out of life and hopefully, during that time, a way to fall back in love with each other and save their marriage. The only rule is they cannot contact each other until the year is up. The rest is up to each of them to decide.

As Lauren sets out on this scary yet exciting year on her own she discovers things about life she never realized before: that love, marriage and commitment are different for every person and couple, that life is not mapped out neatly for anyone and every individual has to decide what they want out of life, that, no matter what, she will be okay and can handle anything life throws at her. But does she want to handle life’s curveballs on her own? Even if she wants someone by her side, does she want that person to be Ryan?

Please excuse me if a gush a little over Taylor Jenkins Reid because she has become one of my very favorite authors! When I read her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, I was so impressed with her ability to present the emotions of her characters so vividly that the reader feels everything – the anger, frustration, heartbreak – right along with them. Well, I am happy to say that Ms. Reid topped herself with After I Do, again presenting a story and situation that so thoroughly grabbed me that I literally had trouble putting the book down and doing anything else. Even when I did have to put the book down for mundane things like sleeping and working I was thinking about the characters and what they would do next.

I think part of what pulled me into this story is that I found so much of myself in Lauren. I have also been with my husband since college and could relate to that feeling of routineness and complacency that seems to come so naturally to a couple who have been together for a long period of time. While I am still very much in love with my husband I could understand what she was talking about and appreciate her and Ryan’s choice to spend the year apart to see if they could find a way back to each other. Every single character is so real and flawed that you love them and can relate to each one, feeling every pain and joy along with them. It’s quite remarkable to me when an author is able to create a world that has you not only entertained but really thinking about yourself in the same situations. I am going through a similar situation with my grandfather that Lauren and her family go through with her grandmother in After I Do and I found myself crying and thinking about how much of a steady rock my husband is in my life. I was staring at him with such pitiful appreciation at one point that it became clear I was making him slightly uncomfortable. That is how invested in the story I was!

Watching Lauren come into her own was amazing. She has such a wonderful, quirky family and seeing how much they supported her and how each opened her eyes to the various ways to love was touching to say the least. As the story was wrapping up I really had no idea whether Lauren and Ryan would end up together or not and that made it that much more realistic. Because in life who knows what will really happen?

I cannot recommend After I Do highly enough. If you have ever questioned the route your life had taken or wondered in the deepest part of your heart whether the person you were with was the right one for you pick it up now. Even if you just want a wonderful story that runs the gambit of emotions give it a go, it is well worth the read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Washington Square Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: The Songbird of Sovereign by Jennifer Wixson

[ 7 ] July 19, 2014

Sovereign Series notecard pic by Sally B 2-14Luxury Reading is kicking off The Songbird of Sovereign blog tour and hosting a fabulous giveaway, courtesy of the author Jennifer Wixson! 

5 winners will receive a copy of the book and 2 grand prize winners will also get packages of the Sovereign Series note cardsOpen to US residents only

About the series

Four novels (and a companion cookbook) about rural love and friendship in the tradition of Sarah Orne Jewett penned by Maine farmer and author Jennifer Wixson. The books are set in the mythical town of Sovereign, Maine (pop. 1,048) where eccentric and lovable characters weave in and out like good friends dropping in for a cup of tea.

Popular residents of Sovereign include the retired music teacher Miss Hastings and the old chicken farmer Wendell Russell. Each book is a stand-alone novel that features a feisty leading lady complete with her own challenges, mischances, and loves. The novels have been compared by readers and reviewers to the classic tales of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) and Betty MacDonald’s book (The Egg and I).

Get lost in this picturesque town of rolling pastures, vernal pools, and pine-scented woods whether while sharing a picnic at the Millett Rock or picking fiddleheads beside Black Brook. Come visit Sovereign–the doors are always open (and unlocked). But be careful; you might never want to leave!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Most Creative/Prolific Contributor Award!

[ 4 ] July 19, 2014

As promised, on the 10th of every month, I give away a book of their choice to the most creative/prolific contributor to Luxury Reading!

This month, our winner once again is…

Colleen Turner!

Kudos to Mary Preston, Bn100, Mary B., and HoldenJ for all your comments!

Please post a comment here with your selection!

The contest started over on July 10th, and I will pick a new winner on the 10th of August. There is no limit to how many times you can win.

Remember, frequency of commenting counts, but so does the quality – a creative and relevant comment will get you more points than something like “sounds great”. Every month, I will pick a winner and post their name, as well as send them an e-mail. The winner can pick any item that is available on Amazon.com.

Get commenting!
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