Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: Somebody Everybody Listens To

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I loved her first book; Southern Literature Challenge

Description: "Retta Lee Jones is blessed with a beautiful voice and has big dreams of leaving her tiny Tennessee hometown. With a beaten down car, a pocketful of hard-earned waitressing money, and stars in her eyes, Retta sets out to make it big in Nashville. But the road to success isn’t a smooth one in a town filled with dreamers, and Retta begins to have doubts: can she make her mark while staying true to herslf?"

First line: "Even on graduation day, the Starling High School gymnasium smelled just like it always did – a combination of old sweat and dust masked somewhat by cherry-scented disinfectant and floor polish."

My thoughts: I'm so behind in writing this, I read it at the beginning of the year! But I really enjoyed this book - it was really refreshing to read a YA novel about a real-seeming person, not one that was all about rich kids or yet another paranormal romance. And I liked the small-town Tennessee and Nashville settings (most Southern YA I've read lately has been in the lush, gothic vein - not that there's anything wrong with that - but again, not very realistic). Supplee must have spent time in Nashville, because she provides great descriptions of the city, particularly Music Row. Each chapter is named for a country song and a brief bio of the singer, including their struggles to get to Nashville, is included, which was a fun touch, and it includes both classic country stars and newcomers like Carrie Underwood, which is good for a YA novel.

Retta is a likeable character and I admired her determination to get to Nashville, even when just about every kind of bad luck befalls her and she even has to turn back at one point. She makes mistakes along the way, but she's talented and good-hearted. I liked that it wasn't a rags-to-riches tale, she doesn't suddenly skyrocket to number one on the charts or anything. Much better than that, it's a story about being brave enough to follow your dreams and to work hard to achieve them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: The Perfect Love Song

The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry
2 stars

Reason for reading: Okra Picks Challenge

Description: "Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again—their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina—he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington.

With his soul now filled with hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the “Perfect Love Song,” so much so that Jimmy finds himself going on tour with famous country music stars, catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme.

All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss Jack’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties to Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly slipping away.

Alone in New York City on Christmas Eve, Jimmy finally sees—with the help of a Christmas miracle or two—that his material gains are nothing compared to love, that he is losing all that really matters in his life. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?"

My thoughts: I agree with this review from Publisher's Weekly "This wallows in the pitfalls of intrusive narration, simplistic storytelling, and overly moralistic asides, and is stocked with characters with all the staying power of a snowflake in July."

This just didn't work for me at all. I felt like I'd missed getting to know the characters and their background somehow and I wasn't surprised to find out in the notes at the end that they were featured in one of the author's other books. Maybe if you'd gotten to know and love them there this book would be fun, but for me it wasn't. Why Kara was so devoted to Maeve Mahoney that she basically dedicates her wedding to the old woman wasn't very clear (presumably it was featured largely in the other book, but it's only mentioned in passing here), the narrator (who I guess is the ghost of Maeve?) is definitely intrusive and there are all kinds of sappy aphorisms throughout. Jimmy is a jerk. It has all of the bad stuff about Christmas movies - sappiness, "Christmas miracles" and someone's bad attitude being transformed on Christmas Eve. Definitely a Christmas turkey.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Love, Charleston

Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart

3 stars

Reason for reading: Okra Picks Challenge

"Charleston's Anne Brumley has long dreamed of love while ringing the bells at St. Michael's, but those dreams are beginning to fade. Her sister Alisha and cousin Della encourage the thirty-six year old to move somewhere new for a fresh start.

Widower Roy Summerall has happily ministered to the country folks of Church of the Good Shepherd for years. So why would the Lord call him and his daughter away to Charleston--the city that Roy remembers from his childhood as pretentious and superficial? Surely the refined congregation of St. Michael's won't accept a reverend with a red neck and a simple faith.

Meanwhile, Anne's sister, Alisha, struggles with her husband's ambition, which seems to be taking him further from their dreams of a happy family. And Cousin Della's former fiance has returned to Charleston, making her wonder if she chose the wrong path when she married her gifted but unemployed-artist husband.

Family, friendship, and faith converge in a beautiful story about how God's transforming love works in the Holy City of Charleston."

My thoughts: I hadn't realized this was Christian fiction when I added it to my to-read list. Not that I have anything against the genre, I just don't have any real interest in it at all. Most of the book was pretty darn depressing - Roy's wife died of cancer, Alisha and her baby almost die and then she suffers from terrible post-partum depression and her husband is a jerk, and Della almost has an affair. While it's tagged as being a love story between Anne and Roy, Anne is away in England for a large part of the book and it honestly seemed a bit of a pairing of convenience - she's an old maid bell-ringer, he's a widowed minsiter, they should get together. I always love books set in Charleston, so that helped. But I particularly thought the last pages where Della, an author, ponders over whether it's a happy ending was a bit too meta for me. I'd probably recommend this author to someone looking for Christian women's fiction or a non-sexy romance, but it wasn't my cup of sweet tea.