Tag Archives: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Top 10 Tuesday — Lovely Book Hometowns

30 Mar

I have always been a small town girl, at least in my heart. I grew up in a large-ish town, but as an adult found myself enjoying small town living. I like less traffic, feeling a part of a community, and knowing people when I shop, dine, or recreate. I am aware of the pitfalls of small town life, (people knowing your business at number 1 😉 ), but still prefer to live in my small town. It was great raising children here too!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about favorite book settings that you could live in. It’s no wonder that I chose small towns, both real and fictional.

In what book setting would you like to call your hometown?

For more Top 10 Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Book Settings I Could Live In

Blackberry Springs, Alabama — where newcomers can find family, awesome swimming hole

Chawton, England (post-WWII) — it’s where Jane Austen lived!

Edisto Island, South Carolina — southern coastal town, great seafood restaurants, nearby Charleston

Hope Harbor, Oregon — beautiful landscape, interesting mix of new and long-time residents, quirky taco truck owner, engaging seagulls

Maryville, Mississippi — great neighbors, a chance to get involved in the community

St. Simons Island, Georgia — coastal town with a small town feel, artsy, community commitment to important issues

Three Sisters Island, Maine — quirky and independent citizens, wonderful family vacation camp

Top 10 Tuesday — Best of 2020

29 Dec

Who knew that 2020 would be such a difficult year? It started out all bright and shiny with the birth of my first grandchild, then a landslide of a lump and a biopsy in February pointed to breast cancer. My surgery and the good news of no chemo or radiation was followed by 15 days to crush the curve. We all know where that went. While life became a bit more normal in June here in Georgia, this year has been filled with anxiety and grief. I am certainly ready for a brand new year!

While I am glad 2020 will soon be in the rearview mirror, I did read A LOT OF GREAT BOOKS this year. I couldn’t whittle the list down to 10, but I did confine it to an even dozen. And that was hard! As always my favorites span a variety of genres — historical, suspense, romance.  I hope you find a book you will love.

For more best of the best lists, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

 

Top Books of 2020

 

Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

 

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Mulberry Leaf Whispers by Linda Thompson

 

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Stay with Me by Becky Wade

The Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Top 10 Tuesday — Thanksgiving Freebie

24 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving! This year Thanksgiving will look different for a lot of us. With grown children with commitments other than my family (is that really a thing? 😉 ), there will only be three for dinner on Thursday. But work from home allowed my son’s family and my daughter to be with us a whole week (one blessing of Covid), and the rest of the gang showed up for a great Sunday Thanksgiving meal. We laughed, watched our grand baby’s antics, and ate way too much.

Family — that’s the biggest thing I am thankful for. It’s been a difficult year for me, Covid notwithstanding. My family has prayed over me and stood with me during the hard cancer diagnosis. I am doing great, and I’m very thankful for having all my family around me.

Family is the theme of my Top 10 Tuesday Thanksgiving Freebie. I am featuring books that involve families, even the nutty or disfunctional ones. The books feature multi-generations, sibling relations, and not-related-but-family-anyway situations. Many involve series — lots of books to love. My list is far from exhaustive, but it does represent recent reading, those I loved years ago, and a variety of genres.. Happy reading!

 

Top Books Featuring Families

 

Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse

The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt

 

Home to Chicory Lane (5-book series) by Deborah Raney

How Sweet The Sound by Amy K. Sorrells

On A Summer Tide (3-book series) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

 

The Sister Circle (5-book series) by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright

The Sons of Blackbird Mountain (2-book series) by Joanne Bischof

Wings Like A Dove by Camille Eide

 

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Books to Movies

18 Aug

I have a big confession: I do not subscribe to Netflix! I think one of my kids has an account downloaded to my TV, but it is only watched when they come to visit. I know this is shocking, but I don’t even turn my TV on anymore. My husband watched Inspector Morris the past few months and has now moved on to Endeavor, but other than a few glimpses up from my book reading, I have not watched TV since April. I have to say I haven’t missed it either. The topic of which books should be made into movies/Netflix series always leaves me with mixed emotions. It would be great if wonderful books could reach more people, but frankly I would rather people enjoy the original source. 😉

For this week’s Top 10 Tuesday I am listing historical fiction that I think would make great movies. The books on my list have a number of strengths — great sense of time and place, interesting and perhaps little known topics, strong characters, intrigue, unputdownableness.

For more recommendations, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Historical Fiction That Should Be Made Into A Movie

 

The Far Side of The Sea by Kate Breslin (currently free for Kindle for Prime Members!)

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

Lady of A Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

The Mark of The King by Jocelyn Green

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

Book Review: The Key to Everything

2 Jul

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined — namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

My Impressions:

The first two books by Valerie Fraser Luesse were all I could hope for in novels that tell wonderful stories filled with engaging characters and a great sense of place and time. I chose The Key to Everything without even reading the blurb, that was how assured I was of liking it. And I did! In fact I loved it. I may even have a little book hangover — I just can’t let this book go. It gets my highly recommended rating.

The Key to Everything is a coming-of-age story set in 1947. This was a time of great hopes, but with the lingering aftereffects of war. I especially liked that Luesse set the novel as a journey in old Florida. While I grew up many years after this story is set, I did experience Florida before the advent of Disney. It was a time of small coastal towns, kitschy motels, and sometimes crusty fish camps. The book brought back those memories and more, with many things I didn’t know before. Peyton’s journey on the saddle of a bike allows the reader to experience the small things that made the Florida of that time special. The characters are wonderfully drawn — I came to love Peyton and all those he met along the way. Peyton is a remarkable character, fearless in his desire to find his own way. I loved how he learned about his father’s dreams and aspirations, along with his disappointments and compromises. This knowledge helped to determine Peyton’s own path. The Key to Everything is a quiet book, yet it has some very big moments that are not shouted, but seep into the reader’s heart. This beautifully told story will stay with me a very long time.  I also think that the novel would make a great choice for book clubs. I know I really want to talk about it!

I wish I could do more justice to this book. Just let me leave you with one more thought — read this book! You will be so glad you did.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

First Line Friday — The Key to Everything

26 Jun

Happy Friday! This weekend I am at the beach — my first foray into travel since everything that has been going on (Southern for pandemic 😉 ). While I am more of a mountains kind of gal, we try to go to the beach at least once a year for a change of scenery, and, I suspect, to cement our love of the mountains. I put The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse in my beach bag and will be reading it while listening to crashing waves. I love the cover. It definitely has a beach-y vibe. The 15 year old main character is on a journey — riding his bike from St. Augustine to Key West. I will be staying a little bit north of his starting point, but I will be with him in spirit!

 

April 1947

Though he couldn’t have known, nor ever guessed, Peyton Cabot had just witnessed a bittersweet kiss goodbye. 

 

 

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined — namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

For more fabulous first line fun, head over to Hoarding Books!

Top Ten Tuesday — Summer TBR

16 Jun

This summer I am going to play catch-up with my reading. I have some new releases I have scheduled to read, but there are some books that I have missed. My reading will be a mix of physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks — I read just about anything in all formats!

What are you reading this summer?

For more bloggers’ summer reading lists, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

A Dream within A Dream by Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci

Trudi Coffey only realizes that she hasn’t seen Samuel Hill in weeks when the FBI shows up asking questions about him. After a strange encounter with an armed man demanding her help and an attack by a member of the Boston mob looking for someone named Dream, Trudi manages to find Samuel–or rather, he finds her. He’s made some pretty powerful enemies, but right now his full attention is on protecting Dream from the mob. Because Dream has something they want–the map to the location of artwork stolen from the Gardener Museum during the infamous 1990 heist.

With danger closing in from all sides, Trudi and Samuel will have to call on all of their allies to keep Dream safe and discover the identity of the people who have been hunting down Samuel. The real questions are whom can they trust? And who will make it out of this thing alive?

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined–namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them — or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago — just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over — and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells

1904, Chudniv, Ukraine. Playing hide-and-seek in bucolic fields of sunflowers, young Jakob never imagines the horrific secrets he will carry as he and his brother escape through genocide-ridden Eastern Europe.

1994, South Haven, Michigan. At age 94, time is running out for any hope that Jakob can be free from his burden of guilt.

When Jakob’s wife dies, he and his daughter, Nel, are forced to face the realities of his worsening dementia―including a near-naked, midnight jaunt down the middle of main street―as well as emerging shadows Nel had no idea lay beneath her father’s beloved, curmudgeonly ways.

While Nel navigates the restoration and sale of Jakob’s dilapidated lake house, her high school sweetheart shows up in town, along with unexpected correspondence from Ukraine. And when she discovers a mysterious gemstone in Jakob’s old lapidary room, Jakob’s condition worsens as he begins having flashbacks about his baby sister from nearly a century past.

As father and daughter race against time to discover the truth behind Jackob’s fragmented memories, the God they have both been running from shows that he redeems not only broken years, but also the future.

The White Rose Resists by Amanda Barratt

The ideal of a new Germany swept up Sophie Scholl in a maelstrom of patriotic fervor — that is, until she realized the truth behind Hitler’s machinations for the fatherland. Now she and other students in Munich, the cradle of the Nazi government, have banded together to form a group to fight for the truth: the White Rose. Risking everything to print and distribute leaflets calling for Germans to rise up against the evil permeating their country, the White Rose treads a knife’s edge of discovery by the Gestapo.

Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she’s been brought up to believe in the Führer’s divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.

Soon Annalise joins their double life — students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they’re all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.

 

Top 10 Tuesday — What’s Your Name?

15 Oct

This week That Artsy Reader Girl is challenging bloggers to compile lists of extraordinary book titles. There are some brilliant Top Ten Tuesday lists out there, so make sure to visit her site to find them.

I decided to go with titles that contain a person’s name. The descriptor attached made me want to know more — what was her love, or promise, or curse? The titles of the books on my list are great indicators of the goodness found inside.

What about you? What book title do you find extraordinary?

 

Top Titles with Names

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Belinda Blake And The Snake in The Grass by Heather Day Gilbert

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

The Memoir of Johnny Devine by Camille Eide

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

If You Liked Almost Home . . .

30 Jun

In June my book club read and enjoyed Almost Home by Valerie Luesse Fraser. This WWII-era novel captured the sense of community that was a part of real life America, something that is sometimes lost in our very modern social media world. If you read it and liked it too, I have a few reading recommendations for you. Hope you find a book to love!

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson

At their sixtieth anniversary party, Adam Carlson asks his wife, Elizabeth, for their customary waltz. After the dance they gather the family and share their story — a story of love and courage overcoming adversity and thriving in the face of overwhelming odds.
It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. At a town festival he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.
When Adam and Elizabeth share a waltz in a deserted pavilion one evening, their feelings begin to grow and they embark on a journey, and a dance, that will last a lifetime.

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval–even marry a man she doesn’t love.

Lt. Walter Novak – fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women – takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives.

As letters fly between Walt’s muddy bomber base in England and Allie’s mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

One dress, five women, a lifetime of memories.

Five single, fiercely independent women live together in a Chicago apartment in the early 1950s but rarely see one another. One Saturday afternoon, as they are serendipitously together downtown, they spy a wedding dress in a storefront window at the famous Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. After trying it on ― much to the dismay of the salesclerk and without a single boyfriend or date between the five of them ― they decide to pool their money to purchase it. Can one dress forever connect five women who live together only a short time before taking their own journeys to love and whatever comes happily ever after?

 

 

 

 

 

June Book Club Selection

3 Jun

This month By The Book is reading Almost Home by Valerie Fraser Luesse. We loved her debut novel, Missing Isaac, and I look forward to discussing this WWII-era novel with my group. Have you read Almost Home. We would love to know what you thought.

 

With America’s entrance into the Second World War, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama, has exploded virtually overnight. Workers from all over are coming south for jobs in Uncle Sam’s munitions plants — and they’re bringing their pasts with them, right into Dolly Chandler’s grand but fading family home turned boardinghouse.

An estranged young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war — they’re all hoping Dolly’s house will help them find their way back to the lives they left behind. But the house has a past of its own.

When tragedy strikes, Dolly’s only hope will be the circle of friends under her roof and their ability to discover the truth about what happened to a young bride who lived there a century before.

Award-winning and bestselling author Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into a cast of unforgettable characters in this complex and compassionate story of hurt and healing.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.