Tag Archives: Southern Literature

Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

    “Every first Sunday in June, members of the colorful Moses clan gather for their annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. Samuel Lake, a handsome young preacher with a huge heart and strong convictions, has brought his wife, Willadee Moses, and their three young children to the festivities. For the children it’s a time to vacation away from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation, and for Willadee it’s a chance to be with her beloved mother and father. But tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

Samuel soon learns that he has lost his parish back in Louisiana, so he and his family take up temporary residence on the farm. Everyone is drawn to Samuel’s eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, with her outspoken questions and mischievous spirit. Swan, in turn, is fascinated by her powerful, secretive Uncle Toy, a war veteran, and his sultry wife, Bernice, an old girlfriend of Samuel’s whose desire to win back her old beau is a bit too obvious. But when Blade Ballenger, an eight-year-old neighbor, comes into Swan’s life, she focuses all her fierce energy on keeping him safe from his terrifying father, never realizing the possible dangers to herself and to those she loves.”

Two words…Southern Gothic. They had me at those two simple words in the book description. There was no way I was turning down two of my favorite genres. As a Southerner I love Southern Literature, it will always hold a place in my heart when written truthfully and from the heart. Secondly I love gothic literature as well for it’s beautifully blended combination of horror and romance. Combine the two and I am in reader’s heaven. And I must say that Jenny Wingfield does a masterful job of combining the darkness of human nature within the idyllic setting of the South although I am not sure “gothic” would be the term I would use.

This book is honest, heart-rending and downright tragic at times but above all it’s real. From the setting to the characters, reality abounds. It’s almost as if you could step into any small town and find a family like the Moses or unfortunately even a snake like Ras Ballenger. Wingfield knows her South, she knows the people, the places and the day to day life and it shows in her masterful writing. From the slow way of life to how she makes biscuits…the South shines through in her work.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book are the characters who are so genuine, you’d swear you knew them in real life. Swan Lake especially sticks out and reminds one very much of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird. From the first few pages with her I felt the resemblance immediately. I have since seen other reviews that felt this similarity. She’s a true, honest and yet fiesty character and although the book is not told solely by her she still has that quality about her that leads most of the storyline and draws readers to her automatically. The supporting cast of characters is also strong making each one a treasure to discover.

In the end The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is truly exquisite example of a master storyteller in her element. Jenny Wingfield was also the screenwriter of the movie The Man in the Moon which I adore so I had some high expectations. I have to say she exceeded them all with a debut novel that is truly a joy to read.

Please make sure to check out all the other stops on the TLC Book Blog Tour.

Book Giveaway

One lucky reader of Stiletto Storytime will win their very own copy of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Giveaway ends midnight EST August 24, 2011. US/Canada addresses only please. The winner will be chosen by random.org and notified by e-mail address. Good Luck to all and Happy Reading!

To enter simply comment below on a Southern writer you might recommend and why you enjoy their work.

Want extra entries? You can get an extra entry by doing any of the following:

Be/Become a Follower of Stiletto Storytime

Be/Become a Follower Stiletto Storytime on Twitter (Leave Name)

Be/Become a Follower of Author Jenny Wingfield on Twitter (Leave Name)

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Filed under Adult Books, Blog Tour, New Books, Southern Literature

Author Guest Post: Susan Gregg Gilmore

http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/ImproperLifeGrove-394x600.png“Apparently among those who consider their social standing some measure of importance, I am to be admired, for I am one of few Nashvillians who can claim with infallible certainty that a blood relation has lived in this town since its inception. My mother, although a Grove by marriage, never tired of sharing this piece of family trivia at cocktail parties or morning coffees, convinced that it elevated her position far beyond what her birth parents could have guaranteed. And whether she did exaggerate the details in the hopes of impressing her peers, the truth remains that a poor Carolina farmer did pack his bags some two hundred and fifty years ago and set out to cross the Appalachian Mountains, heading west with his young bride determined to claim a few acres of his own and a better life for his family. He probably didn’t have a penny to his name by the time he got to Fort Nashboro begging for a hot meal and a place to sleep, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the Grove family anymore.

Legend has it that when the Chickamauga Indians attacked the Nashville settlement, they killed my ancestral father as he fought to protect his beloved wife. She grabbed the musket from her dead husband’s hands and continued the fight, killing three Indian warriors herself. Then she fell on top of her husband’s cold, bloody body and held him in her arms throughout the night.

Her name was Bezellia Louise, and for generations since, the first girl born to a Grove has been named in her memory. Although most official historians dispute any claims of her heroics, my father donated thousands of dollars to the Nashville Historical Society with the belief that eventually some fresh, young academic would see the past more according to my family’s advantage. But fact or fiction, I believed in her courage and passion and have always been proud to share her name.

Sadly, the Bezellias birthed before me never cared for this designation, preferring a monosyllabic moniker – like Bee, Zee or Zell – to their formal Christian name. My own mother disliked the name so much that for years she refused to let it cross her lips, calling me only sister, a generic substitution that summed up her distaste for my name and her inadequate affection for me. I, on the other hand, always wanted to hear my name in its entirety, never caring what others thought of it.

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I can almost always tell within a few pages of a novel about the “South” whether that particular writer is truly “Southern” or  someone who has simply taken a special interest in the culture of the South.  As many of my readers know I am a Southern girl born and raised so I take the literature of the South pretty seriously.  The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove is truly a Southern novel clearly written by a Southern writer with not only a working knowledge of the South but a great historical knowledge of the city of Nashville itself. Coincidentally I myself was born in Nashville ,TN and grew up about 45 minutes outside of Music City. This made Gilmore’s latest work even more special for me as I enjoyed learning about the Nashville of the past beyond it’s well known country music roots. Her coming of age novel of a young girl with a unique name and outlook on the world is a must read.  Susan Gregg Gilmore shines in her ability to be able to accurately portray the South in a warmhearted and loving manner while also building a novel that centers around some of the bigger controversies of this unique area of the United States.  Her ability to weave the charm of the South, it’s history and a wonderful character into a great novel is really magical. From the first few pages of this book I knew I would be hooked by her writing.

I have to admit I am probably a tougher critic than most when it comes to this genre. I am protective of my home and what it stands for.  I tend to able to sift through the stereotypes easily, there are those that are so true…well…we have to admit to them. Those that most outsiders think are true but are not representative of most of the South and then finally those that are downright disrespectful and “poke” fun at the South. To the “non-southerner” I think these often get confused. However Susan Gregg Gilmore shows she knows how to write a wonderful work of Southern Literature with that is both serious and light at heart.

So without further ado…please welcome Susan Gregg Gilmore to Stiletto Storytime:

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“Shttps://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=55156dd8b4&view=att&th=12b3a0b78749d078&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=f_geecfmvf0&zwweet tea, grits, monogrammed towels, old Baptist hymns, fried green tomatoes, country ham.  OK, just because I like all of these things that does make me Southern, more Southern than you perhaps, or at the very least Southern at heart?
Or, is “being Southern” strictly a geographical definition?  Were you born below the Mason-Dixon line or not?
For me, my “Southernness” is very much about birthplace.  I am, as they say, a daughter of the South, born and raised in the great state of Tennessee, the land of Davy Crockett and Dolly Parton.  But it’s also about more than that.  It’s about being the daughter of a mother whose ancestors were forced onto the Trail of Tears and a father whose relatives preached from a pulpit under a revival tent pitched by the side of calm Georgia stream.
Yes, loving the taste of hot buttered cornbread, catching lightning bugs on a summer evening, and singing the last stanza of “Just As I Am” four or five times on a Sunday morning are all a part of my experience, a part of my family’s tradition, my culture, my heritage.  Yes, being Southern is about place.  But you see, it’s more about honoring that place, its people, its customs, its foods, its language and beliefs.
When I moved to Washington, DC, at the age of 15, people made fun of my accent.  When I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 36, people made fun of my accent.  At 15, I felt embarrassed.  At 36, I felt proud.
I even remember a neighbor making a point of letting me know she didn’t care for Southern literature as if it was not as important as the works of fiction set in another region of the country.  Hmmm, I wondered if she was familiar with the works of Welty, Faulkner and O’Connor.  I come from a fertile land, I thought, known for its writers, its song writers and its produce.
So now when people ask me what makes fiction “Southern,” I say it is as much about place as anything else and all that place means.  And when they ask me if anyone can write Southern literature, even transplants.  I say “no.”  The South has to be a part of who you are, a part of every fiber of your being, that is what gives you the privilege of calling yourself a Southern writer.”

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Book Giveaway

To win a copy of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore simply leave a comment below with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end  October 27, 2010 at midnight.  Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail.
Also make sure and check out Susan Gregg Gilmore’s Southern Culinary Book Club.

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Filed under Adult Books, Author Interviews & Posts, historical fiction, Southern Literature

Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n70/n352231.jpgThe small town of Southport, North Carolina is as quiet as they come. It’s the perfect place to relax for a weekend or just get away and that’s exactly what newcomer Katie has done. Young and attractive Katie tries not to draw attention to herself. Her new neighbors think her somewhat quiet, a bit withdrawn and always shy.  Often she seems to wither under questioning and even friendly exchanges seem to make her nervous but she’s a hard worker and seems nice enough.  When she lets down her guard Katie is really quite charming. However her guard is rarely down.

What happens when the person you love turns into a monster you fear? When the man who swore to protect you from the world becomes the one you need protection from? When you’re a fresh face in a small town southern hospitality makes it hard to remain a stranger for long and although she tries to avoid others Katie soon finds herself making friends such as her quirky neighbor Jo and perhaps even finding love with a local widower. Alex and his two young children are everything Katie has ever dreamed a marriage and family could be. Recovering from the loss of his wife Carly, Alex is a loyal man with strong values and a heart of gold. Entering their world she finds herself not only falling in love but also truly discovering who she is in a life without fear. But can she ever really breath easy when disaster for everyone near her could be just around the corner?

In a stunning novel about the dark side of love and marriage, Nicholas Sparks brings to life one of his most poignant characters and also one of his most sinister.  Detailing the horrors of domestic violence, Sparks creates a stunning novel full of surprises and edge of the seat suspense. Devotees of Sparks will find this new work a little darker than what they might expect while new readers will instantly be wrapped up in the saga of a woman searching for safety and love. While some think Sparks formulaic, there is no denying his stories after more often than not engrossing and rich with regional detail and emotional connections. Safe Haven is sure to be yet another Sparks’s bestseller but it also shows a darkness that many may find new to his writing. It’s a book that not only entertains but also informs and brings to light an all to real horror.

Check out Nicholas Sparks site to see a video about the release of Safe Haven & why people love his writing.

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Filed under Adult Books, New Books, Southern Literature

Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Mullaby, North Carolina is a sleepy town full of the rich scent of barbecue and the sound of closely kept secrets, secrets that glow in the dark and smell of sparkling sugar and vanilla.  They float in the woods at night taunting newcomers and residents alike. Julia Winterson knows these secrets well; one of them is her very own. Returning to her hometown after years away, she must pick up the pieces of her father’s material legacy before she can leave again to begin a life of her own. A dream to own  The Blue-Eyed Girl Bakery in far away Baltimore keeps her going as she bakes cake after cake in her father’s restaurant, yearning for a life away from where she is while at the same time wanting to return to a night long ago. A night spent with a boy who is now a man. A man of Mullaby. For whom does she bake these cakes and what keeps her from leaving it all behind? Is it her past or her future which keeps her in her small hometown?

Julia’s neighbor Emily Benedict however has returned to Mullaby in the exact opposite position, she comes knowing nothing at all about the town or it’s residents and their secrets.  After her mother Dulcie’s death the teenager returns to live with her larger than life Grandfather Vance in an ancient Southern home almost as big as the giant himself. A grand house with a peeling facade and whimsical wallpaper that always seems to suit your mood without fail. There she finds perhaps her mother was not the women she believed her to be and in fact maybe she herself is responsible for righting the wrongs of the past. But should the daughter suffer for the sins of the mother? The answer depends on whom you ask in the small town. And what of the handsome boy in the suit who seems to pull her in like a moth to the flame, will he be her savior or her undoing?

Love, hate and the sweet smell of cake permeate The Girl Who Chased the Moon, making it impossible to resist after just one page. The New York Times best selling author has created another originally amazing world within her newest work, a magical backdrop of love, fancy and Southern warmth. Her words are like comfort food for the soul and readers will want to indulge again and again in her offerings. When searching for a Southerner who can spin an enchanting tale, search no further than the Carolina’s own Sarah Addison Allen. When trying to satisfy your sweet tooth for a good filling read, search no further than The Girl Who Chased the Moon. But don’t be surprised if you awake to flour and sugar having made its mark on the pages because the story will live much longer than it takes to be read.

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times best selling author of Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. The Girl Who Chased the Moon will be available on March 16th from Bantam Books.

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Filed under Adult Books, New Books

A Haunting Southern Story

I just finished Tennyson by Lesley M. M. Blume. When it first came in I was drawn to it because of it’s cover and title but once I read the description I was hooked. I’m a sucker for southern literature. Also I went through a period when I was younger…My Anne of Green Gable Phase would probably be the best description of that time. I wanted to name my daughter either Tennyson, Guinevere or some reference to The Lady of Shalott. My mother is very glad that that blew over before I had children by the way.

However I loved Tennyson and would recommend it highly. Very haunting and honest. Great for the 9-12 set especially girls. Boys may be a little harder to get into this one. One of the things I loved the best about the book is the concentration on historical narrative such as the descriptions of the southern plantation houses and what became of them after the war. I also enjoyed the Southernisms shall we call them. Many of them I was told as a young child. But try and enjoy…my review is below if your interested and you can visit Lesley M. M. Blume’s site. She has a wonderful page on Tennyson which allows you to visit the sites of many Louisiana plantations such as Nottoway and The Myrtles . She put a lot of research into the book by visiting plantations in the Louisiana area and you can absolutely feel that in her book. She sets the stage perfectly.

Tennyson by Lesley M. M. Blume

Eleven year old Tennyson Fontaine desperately wants her mother to return home. Searching for his wife Tennyson’s father leaves her and her little sister Hattie at Aigredoux. Aigredoux is the Fontaine family plantation reduced to falling plaster and torn up stairs. A house haunted by both its magnificent and evil past. As Tennyson searches for ways to bring her mother back she finds the story of her ancestors and the plantation house seeping into her dreams. But maybe her dreams can help bring her lost mother home. Beautiful and imaginative Tennyson is a haunting southern tale not to be missed.

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Filed under Books for Girls, Children's Literature, Lesley M. M. Blume