Thursday, April 14, 2011

26: Lowcountry Summer

Lowcountry Summer, by Dorothea Benton Frank, is the story of Caroline, who lives on Tall Pines Plantation. Like all of her books, this one is set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But, unlike most of her books, this one is AWFUL.

I have my doubts if Ms. Frank even wrote this book. It reads like a ghostwriter wrote it. It is so completely unlike her typical writing style and her typical narratives that I really finished it just because I had to see how ridiculous the plot got.

Caroline, the main character, is so mean in describing her niece (who she says could go to work on a carnival for how ugly she is) I had trouble taking her seriously. She also tries to make jokes about her nieces dating landscapers and calls her sister-in-law awful names. There was a ton of bad language and the thoughts of sex permeated this book. Nothing about this main character radiated “southern charm” and the only good and decent character gets killed off. 

Don’t waste your time or money. I was disappointed, for sure, because most of her books are very entertaining. Drop the ghostwriter, and return to Sullivan’s Island, Dorothea Benton Frank! I give this one a 3/10.

25: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, tells the story of life through the eyes of a dog who is living his last days on earth. Enzo has been a faithful companion for many years, through thick and thin, to his owner Denny. Named after a racing car company, Enzo and Denny watch hours of racing footage on TV, as Denny tries to get his big break in racing, and when Denny marries Eve, Enzo steps aside, but knows he is still valued in the family. Denny and Eve have a baby, Zoe, and the family is so happy. Then Enzo smells something bad happening in Eve, but he has no way to warn his family. The something bad tears the family apart, and causes Denny and Zoe great pain for a long time. And, with the clarity of Budda, Enzo continues to tell the story of their life together. 

I cried from chapter one in this book. But, I absolutely loved it. The analogies to life are astounding, and I think you could make a case that this book should be required reading for college students around the globe. I am most certainly a dog-lover, but not necessarily a race-car lover and I still loved this book. I give this book a solid 9/10, because everyone should read this book. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.” Such truer words have never been spoken.

24: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gregg Gilmore, was an Amazon recommended book after I read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I reserved it at the library and when it came in, I could not wait to dive in based off the cover alone!

It was a very sweet book. Catherine Grace has always wanted to escape from her small town, where the only source of entertainment is the Dairy Queen. Her mother mysteriously disappeared long ago, and she has been raised by her Southern Baptist preaching daddy and lives in the family house with her sister. She learns the art of being a woman from her eccentric next door neighbor, Gloria Jean, who has taken over in the mothering department since Catherine Grace’s mother left. She saves up, and at the age of 18, she finally escapes to Atlanta. A terrible family tragedy, and some malicious gossip about her family (which may turn out to be true), bring her back home and to the family she left behind.

I liked this book. I think it could be read as chick-lit, as deep fiction and as such an analogy for what the Dairy Queen represents. I craved a chocolate dipped cone the whole time I was reading it, and the ending did not disappoint.

I give this book an 8/10. There were a few things that made it far-fetched, but I laughed and I cried and I enjoyed meeting Catherine Grace.

23: Playing House

Playing House, by Patricia Pearson, was a cute enough book. It was one of those books that I picked up on a whim at the library one day. It had an interesting enough premise, but by the end, I didn’t have enough interest in it to really care one way or the other about the characters.

Frannie finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, throws up in a sweater display in the Gap, goes back to Canada, where she is from, to take advantage of the free health care and finds herself unable to return to NYC due to an expired visa. She rides out the remainder of her pregnancy, breaks the news to the baby daddy, Calvin, and “house sits” for her brother while learning to become a mom.

The book was not developed enough for me to like. It lacked details and by the end I thought Frannie was annoying and whiny. I’m tired of authors not giving their characters strong opinions, strong backbones and strong personalities in book (hello, Shopaholic series). I give this book a 5/10.