Guest Resident Blogger’s Book # 41 of 2016

Turn South at the Next Magnolia by Nan GrahamBook Template

A Book with a Protagonist that has Your Occupation

Do you know how hard it is to find a book about a secretary? Is our profession so dull no one wants to write about it? (To be sure, it is.) So I read this one, as she is a self-proclaimed short story writer. Her interview with the radio station sounds like pretty much every conversation I have with people newly introduced to me by some well-meaning friend: “What kind of things do you write?”

“Well, Southern things.”

Pretty self-explanatory for anyone who lives around here.

Enough about me. Onward with the book review!

It’s very similar to All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Except Southern. So, needless to say, it was a hit with me. The author is older, & she dates herself by name dropping occasionally. Thank God for Google. But it’s an easy little read, full of anecdotes & southernisms (those are factual wisdoms learned through trial & error, often involving cousins & blood at a young age).

The title may make you feel languid, but the passages won’t. So check out this beautiful little gem & set a spell on the porch reading a page or two. You’ll find it engaging & have the whole thing read before you know it!

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #41 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Bloggers Book #40 of 2016

That Quail, Robert by Margaret A. Stanger9780449212271

A Book That’s Under 150 Pages

It is said that if you’re blessed, you will have a handful of true friends in your lifetime. You are considered lucky to have one great dog. And if you’re truly fortunate, you’ll know true love. I sometimes think this is the case with really good books. I came upon this unassuming little book at the Dollar General one afternoon when I ran in for a gallon of milk. I mistakenly believed that it would be a documentary of sorts, which I enjoy on occasion, and it was so tiny & cute, I couldn’t resist. Plus, it was only a dollar.

I didn’t know I had stumbled on one of the most delightful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding in my hand. Who knew the antics of a quail could be so endearing? I don’t know how long it takes to fall in love with a person, but you’ll be in love with Robert the Quail well before the close of 150 pages. He will win you over the minute he hatches. You’ll want your very own quail to hold. You want to be charmed as you watch it drink dew from blades of grass & chase spiders. Or you may not be touched at all & be disgusted by the thought of fowl in the house. …..but I doubt it. I think you’ll be as enchanted as I was.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #40 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #39 of 2016

51cieyvtuxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum

A Book You Can Read in a Day

It takes a thoughtful friend to give the gift of books.

I have such friends.

Of course, everybody knows I love books. And I’ll read nearly anything, so I’m not hard to buy for in that aspect. The trouble is, I have so many (around 1500 at last count, not including Kindle) it’s nearly impossible to find something I don’t already have. Wily friends will engage me in conversation to ferret out which type of books I prefer, which ones I have yet to procure & read. Some even sneakily peruse my many bookshelves. I get it, some books are so good you have to share them. No, no, I’m not giving up MY books, but I am passing along the experience. I will read anything you swear is your favorite book. Aaaaa-neee-thing. Case in point: my husband’s favorite book is The Devil’s Guard. To put it succinctly, it’s the first-hand account of a former German SS soldier, enlisted with the French Foreign Legion to fight in Indochina. Not my genre by a long shot. I prefer books set in the south, preferably the Low-country or Appalachia. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the bloodshed in the jungle. Whodathunkit? Last year, a new friend forced her favorite on me, The Proud Breed. It’s a four-generational saga of a family settling California with a herd of palomino horses. *Yawn*…or so I thought. It was WONDERFUL!! I was completely swept away in the story by the second page. Now, beware, it’s a hum-dinger of a novel, coming in at 832 pages. But believe me when I say it’s a page turner & you’ll be through it before you know what’s happened & wishing it could go on for another 800.

I bet you’re wondering if I’m ever going to get around to my book review for this book.

I came by it as a gift from a good friend, a fellow reader. She cunningly drew me into a conversation about it & determined I neither owned the novel in question nor had read it, but aspired to.

It’s wonderfully quick, the stories just a page or two long, & written in simplified terms. The author has been a preacher & a bartender, & really, what more do you need to know? Ok, I’ll tell you: we’re made of stardust, mermaids are real, & it can be Christmas in August if it lives in your heart.

I’m passing this one along (not my copy) to the friend who referred The Proud Breed to me. I know she’ll enjoy it immensely, & I know you will, too.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #39 of 52

Posted in Book Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #38 of 2016

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard410lzwzat7l-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Pageturner’s September Book Club Selection

This is one of those that sneaks up on you. You’re just reading along, half interested, more tuned into the fact the author neglects the Oxford comma than in the budding storyline when *sluuuurp!!* you’re sucked into Paris, the City of Light, in the year of our Lord, 1914. And it’s magical.

I didn’t want to like the protagonist, Eva. She was too perfect. But she was as irresistible to me as she was to everyone else. And of course, Picasso is lovable in his puppy dog ways. There’s no clear villain in this page-turner, there are characters you will like less than others, but it’s difficult to pin down the adversary. The story is laced with bits of French & Spanish, but nothing to worry your pretty little head about. Just sit back & let the words wrap around you to transport you back to that enchanting time. And call me when you’re finished so we can chat about it over coffee & croissants. My apologies to whoever gets the copy I borrowed from the library. I got a bit of sand between the pages…and maybe a few tears.

If you like this, you might also like Paris Wife by Paula McClain. That is, if you didn’t get enough of Paris & heartache the first time.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #38 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #37 of 2016

All Summer Long by Dorothea Benton Frankdownload

A Book That Takes Place During Summer

Well, if the title doesn’t say it all, allow me to spell it out for you: This is a whirlwind, unbelievable story that takes place from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the life of Olivia Ritchie.

And it could not be less relatable.

I am so disappointed in my favorite author! Surely she did not actually pen this mindless drivel!! It’s all dialogue, the only descriptions are of food, and the majority of characters are truly heartless & without dimension. I wanted to close the book & stick it on my shelf without another thought by page 20. By 48 I was squinching my eyes closed & praying it would improve. By page 88 I had messaged my friends, who love Mrs. Frank’s stories as much as I do, not to waste a minute on this manuscript. If I had to read one more contrived “I love you sweetheart” I think I might have put a needle in my eye. The Southern Belle, Maritza, is portrayed as ridiculous & ditzy. They were all truly despicable. How could a lovely story of the Low-country possibly be so ruinous, you ask? Well, throw in half a dozen miserable filthy rich characters with one agenda, two spoiled brats, and a storyline that most of us can barely fathom, & you’ve got an idea of how horrible it is. Historically we could depend on Mrs. Frank to deliver an engaging tale with one lovable, perfect character- South Carolina itself. But even that is lacking in this one. It hurt my heart. Pass on this one, read one of her older novels instead.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #37 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #36 of 2016

Fearless by Eric Blehm51hub8tesbl-_sx324_bo1204203200_

An Autobiography

My husband has been on me to read this book for over a year. I wasn’t opposed to it, I just hadn’t made time. But oh, yet another joy of a reading list! If your To-be-read pile is out of control, I strongly urge you to partake in a reading challenge.

Put aside all the things you think you know about the military. The picture you have probably includes young men just out of high school, perhaps hailing from military families, that have bloodlust in their hearts, or those who are wanting a “free” ride to college. Yeah, erase all that.

Meet Adam Brown. The first page tries to prepare you: “What you are about to read is the account of an American hero who bravely gave permission to share his journey, from small-town America to the gutter to jail to Jesus to war to the top tier of the U.S. military: SEAL Team SIX.”

That pretty much sums it up. What it doesn’t tell you is how attached you will become to Adam, how you want to squeeze him tight when he’s little & endearing, and laugh at his wit & practical jokes through school. You envision saving him when he starts hanging with the wrong crowd, & then fighting the desire to chain him to the front porch so he can’t steal from his family & friends to buy drugs. You want to hold his hand & pray for him when he’s in rehab, then physically beat Jesus into him when he relapses. You’ll be weak & shivering while he’s in training, & ready to feed him fried chicken and apple pie and run him a bubble bath when he comes home from war. You will be astounded as you read about the injuries he endures that never impede his warrior stride. You want to tell him not to go on that last mission, because you know how it ends.

But Adam is not only fearless, he’s stubborn. When he’s training himself before shipping out to boot camp at age 22, his wife says, “There was an intensity. A focus.” He says he could “smell the {drugs} sweating out of me”. He would swim a quarter mile, climb a trail out of the lake bottom, & try to run back to his truck. “By the time he got there he was stumbling & nearly collapsed. Angry at his weakness, Adam returned the next morning to do it again.”

Adam makes it through boot camp, and then begins the first leg of Navy SEAL training, called BUD/S. He struggles with the time limit on the two-time ocean swim. He needed to shave ten whole minutes of his time or he would be cut from the program. “We had the whole church praying for him that day…a friend prayed aloud that Adam would not only qualify, he would beat his best time by so much it would be evident to everyone that God did it, not Adam.

On the crucial day, Adam came in at under 75 minutes. He not only cut twenty minutes off his prior best time, he also beat the required time by a full ten minutes.”

Adam makes it. He’s the elite now, a SEAL. But that’s not all. He can’t stop when there’s another level to attain. He presses on, past his many injuries, to the DEVGRU unit, the pinnacle of all SEALs. At the funeral of a fallen fellow soldier, the Captain makes a speech to define what we, as a nation, are up against: “The enemy we face in Afghanistan is as hard & tough as the land they inhabit…It is their intimate knowledge of every inch of the most rugged terrain on earth that is matched against our skill, cunning, & technology. They are worthy adversaries & our intelligence confirms that they fear & respect us. They have learned to carefully choose their fights because SEALs will answer the bell every time.”

Adam was almost invincible. He had the surest sense of God supporting him to make it through almost any situation, doing so left handed & one-eyed. One of his fellow SEALs says to him (on Easter, no less), “‘I don’t understand how you can do what we do & be religious.”‘ To which Adam replied, “‘I can’t believe you can do what we do and NOT be.'”

He was a Christian exemplified. A Green Beret who worked with Adam during one deployment remarked, “Here we are, packing extra ammo & grenades when we went outside the wire, & Adam was Adam stuffing his ruck with shoes…He’s got his weapon slung & he’s on his knees in the dirt, helping kids who have never tied a shoe in their life. This is a war zone, & he’s passing out shoes.”

His widow, Kelley, gives us a glimpse of her side of his career: “He told me, ‘I’m not afraid. God gave me this gift–I don’t feel fear.’ That terrified me.”

“It was his job & he believed in it,” she adds towards the end of the book.

Adam was a fan of the book Tender Warrior, by Stu Weber, a Special Forces veteran. A passage included reads, “There is a difference between a warrior & a brute. A warrior is a protector. Men stand tallest when they are protecting & defending.”

So please pick up Fearless & meet the good ole boy from Arkansas that had a dark patch but lived through it to tell it. He wants the world to know it’s never too late. And he wants you to know he was just a regular guy who achieved something truly spectacular, all through the grace of God. This book will drive you to your knees, in more ways than one.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #36 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #35 of 2016


Intention of Wings by Sue Monk Kiddintention

An Oprah Book Club Selection

I chose this book because I loved her previous works–The Mermaid Chair & The Secret Life of Bees. And this one has been on my list since it was released because of the setting, my favorite of all, the Lowcountry.

You can read a book review anywhere. Readers love to rehash books. They’ll give you the synopsis in their own words but never divulge an opinion. Generally, I find those reviews a yawn. They’re just repeating what the publisher says. So I try to skip that & give you an honest, if biased, review.

I don’t always agree with what all the fuss is about. It happens frequently. Somebody important & well respected–in this case Oprah– makes a big deal out of an average (at best) book. You don’t have to like me or agree with me. I just don’t see it. I think truly successful, wonderful books should make you want to go to where they are set, or in the very least, read more about it. This book, while written about a difficult time in our history, could have made Charleston as enticing as peanut butter pie. Because it is. Unfortunately, it fell flat as a flitter. (Don’t ask me what a flitter is, I just know my momma always said it so it must be true.)

The thing about it is, this book was based on a true story. The Grimke’ sisters were real abolitionists. They truly were planter’s daughters who became shunned by Charleston society after they began speaking out on the slaves behalf.

I don’t like anything this novel represented. Handful’s mother did do wrong. She stole without shame, purely for spite. She lied. And she was punished. While her discipline was harsh, she never let that stop her. She didn’t learn her lesson, it only made her worse. I found myself gritting my teeth against it. Her stubbornness bled over into her daughter. There’s nothing wrong with having fire & yearning for a better life, but this was no way to go about obtaining it. And while Sarah & Nita’s mother was portrayed as Satan’s mistress, that was the only life the woman knew. She was a product of her raising. Women did not speak out or question another way back then or they were beaten like their slaves were. They were simply ornamental & charming.

While this could have been a colorful, truthful portrayal of two women coming of age in a land that time & wisdom have erased, it was just a mundane, fabricated, droning story full of misery on all fronts. Mrs. Kidd did not even attempt to make Charleston beautiful by description of the city or sea. This is probably intentional but I thought this was detrimental to the story. All this horror in a land so astoundingly gorgeous.

If that isn’t bad enough, we are left at loose ends with several of the main characters. If I give a book time, it should give me answers.

Save yourself the agony by reading another saga with some sustenance. The Invention of Wings is repetitive & drab, & paints no one in the flattering light of the Lowcountry.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #35 of 52

Posted in Book Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment