The Myth of Perpetual Summer @SusanCrandall

There are times when a book reaches out, grabs your heart and doesn’t let it go. The Myth of Perpetual Summer is that book! 

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Susan Crandall, author of the best-selling novel Whistling Past the Graveyard, captures the very essence of southern literature in her new tale, The Myth of Perpetual Summer.

Tallulah James – how typically southern is that name – was the glue that held her crumbling and decaying family together. Raised primarily by her grandmother, her parents a very dysfunctional pair who couldn’t be bothered with their kids, Tallulah attempts to shield her siblings, and the town, from the very worst of the secrets being kept inside her family’s home. When she has had enough and is at her breaking point, Tallulah flees her small Mississippi town, going as far west as she is able – California -where she desperately tries to re-create herself and bury her past. But the past won’t let her go. Her youngest brother has been charged with murder and Tallulah knows that she has to return “home” to help him.

Although Crandall has lived her entire life in Indiana, she very clearly has a feel for the southern way of life. The heartache and heartbreak that covers the south like a dusty, ever present film, is vividly portrayed in The Myth of Perpetual Summer. Having grown up in a small town in Arkansas, every word on these pages felt like home to me. These were people that I knew, these were my neighbors, my own family, my friends. The south, particularly the “deep south,” has a way of keeping secrets, burying them deep, only to bring them to light when you least expect or want to see them. Crandall understands this and gives words to the feelings of being trapped, judged, and lonely in a room full of people or in small town where all eyes are on you.

The story covers a broad range of topics: the 60s, war, religion, cults and, ultimately, family secrets. The lengths that families will go to in order to protect their “name,” their reputation is the at the very core of this novel. It is those secrets that have torn this family apart. Crandall’s writing examines the question that far too many families must ask themselves – are the secrets and lies more important than being healthy and whole?

This is a beautifully written, woeful tale that will break your heart and leave you shattered but it also is a book about hope, families and the bonds that tie them together.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway and #SusanCrandall for my copy of this fascinating book. A fun note – Susan Crandall lives in the next town over from mine here in Indiana and I am huge of this fellow Hoosier’s work.

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The Roadrunner Cafe

Jamie Zerndt has crafted a solid, domestic noir saga that deals with a family who experienced loss and whose grief touches everyone in the small, intertwined town. The Roadrunner Café is dark, at times overwhelming but, ultimately, a story of hope for us all.

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Carson Long’s father has committed suicide. The grief over his loss and the unanswered questions permeate their home which Carson describes as a “two-story coffin.” His mother, Judith, is both sad and bitter. His sister, Georgie, is depressed and angry often acting out in ways that teens do when they cannot get a handle on their intense emotions. Their neighbors and former customers are affected by their own sense of loss and grief. And then there are the trees planted outside the café to represent each member of the family. They become symbolic of this family’s life, their choices and ultimately their future.

There were times that I felt as though I was chasing a roadrunner as the book weaved and dodged from one member of the large ensemble cast. We are introduced to the family first, the neighbors and then members of the community. To say that I was incredulous that Zerndt could tie all of these characters together in any logical way is an understatement. I finally let go of my expectations for the characters as well my insatiable need to know what their role would be and simply flowed with each ones unique story. And yes, they all do fit together in the end.

Parts of the story are very depressing, others are incredibly graphic. I’m not sure that I would want a young teen to read this story but it is one that needs to be told, has an excellent message and could be read by older young adults. It is perfect for those of us who love noir writing and strong, well formed characters.

This book is not going to be for everyone; it is not a fast paced book but rather a story of love, compassion, forgiveness and, simply, a people’s need to grieve. I highly recommend The Roadrunner Café but with a warning to take the book slowly, get to know the characters and allow them to grow as you read along. You will be glad that you did.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and Amazon Kindle for my copy of this book.

Southern Saturday – Blazing Summer

I was raised in the south and honestly did not like the summers there. There were too many bugs, too much heat and far too much humidity to make me a happy southerner. Now the heat waves have moved north with me and I feel as though I am “back home” in Arkansas once more. All of this heat makes me want to do nothing except sit in the AC, sip lemonade and READ – and that is exactly what I am doing!

Blazing Summer – Darling Investigations 2 is the sizzling summer read – pun intended, of course. It’s hot, filled with tension and great for a quick read on a lazy summer afternoon. However….

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Blazing Summer is the second book in the Darling Investigations series by Denise Grover Swank however it also works as a stand alone since the first chapter is devoted to catching you up with Summer Butler since the last book. Summer is a former actress from a police show, a former beauty queen who worked the pageant circuit, who now has her own reality television show featuring her investigations in her Alabama hometown. In the reality show she investigates interesting but small time crimes while in reality she is investigating, and often solving, bigger cases. The cast of characters is rather typical: her cousin, Dixie, (of course it’s Dixie, right?) her former boyfriend with whom Summer is in an on-again/off again relationship and also just happens to be the Police Chief in the small town, as well as a horrific, infuriating producer who, while female, should be sued for her sexist remarks. But then again, it is the south and that’s how they typically roll. In the second installment, Summer’s former television co-star has joined the reality show which leads to more drama, more angst and more sexist dialogue.

Blazing Summer is a good “cozy mystery.” If you like that genre then you will find this book enjoyable. Perhaps it is because of my dislike for typical southern anti-woman comments which I had to endure for most of my life, I found the book very irritating, especially considering that it is written by a woman. While Summer is portrayed as very strong and capable of handling herself, she rarely (never?) speaks up for herself when these verbal abuses are hurled her way. I get that this is supposed to be a “cute” book but messages repeated over and over soon become the norm and the manner in which Summer deals – or not – with the stereotypical southern sexist remarks left me cold.

Denise Grover Swank, who is a southerner herself, perfectly captures the atmosphere of the small southern town, stereotypically develops the personalities of these characters and adds the prerequisite sexual tension needed for a cozy southern tale. I think it is because of all of the above that it left me wanting a glass of hard lemonade to cool off my hot head.

I can neither recommend or not this book to you. I am sure that there are readers who will enjoy it. It is well written, just not something that I care to read.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway program for the opportunity to read and review this book.